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WITHOUT THROWING AWAY HIS CIGAR, OR EVEN LIFTING HIS HAT, THIS FINE YOUNG 
GENTLEMAN BEGAN TO TALK WITH THE IDEAL BEING 



halzac, vol sixteen— Frontii 



Honore de Balzac 

IN TWENTY-FIVE VOLUMES 
tElje jftrst Complete translation into dSnglts!) 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 



TRANSLATED BY 

LIONEL STRACHEY 



Volume £>t$teen 



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS FROM DRAWINGS ON THE WOOD 
BY FAMOUS FRENCH ARTISTS 




jpeto ^orfe 
PETER FENELON COLLIER & SON 



• MC M 



Copyright 1900 
PETER FENELON COLLIER & SON 



CONTENTS 

Provincial Parisians 



StacK 
Anne* 

Pq 

2/Cf 
ffyv 

PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 

PART THE FIRST 

CT* HE TO URN1 Q UET SA IN T-JEA N, w hose descrip - 
•*■ tion was elaborated at the appropriate time in the 
beginning of the study entitled "A Second Home" — this 
relic of old Paris no longer exists but in the printed record 
aforesaid. The erection of the Hotel de Ville, such as it 
stands to-day, swept away a whole precinct. 

In 1830, passers-by might still observe the turnstile 
painted on the wine merchant's sign, but the house itself 
has since been torn down. Old Paris, alas! was disappear- 
ing very fast. Here and there, in this work, will be found 
an occasional dwelling of medieval type, like that men- 
tioned at the commencement of 4t At the Sign of the Cat 
and Racket," and of which a few specimens are still in 
existence; or again we shall rind a house like Judge Popi- 
not's, Rue de Fouarre, of old middle-class type. Here are 
the remains of the Fulbert house, there is the whole port 
of the Seine under Charles IX. Why should not the his- 
torian of French society, like another Old Mortality, save 
these strange messages from the past, just as Walter Scott's 
old man drew life from the tombstones ? For the last ten 
years, certainly, the protests of literature have not been 
superfluous: art is beginning to conceal the hideous fronts 
of business houses in Paris, which one of our poets humor- 
ously compares to wardrobes. 

(7) 



8 BALZAC'S WORKS 

Let us remark here that the municipal "Ornament" 
board, which in Milan regulates the architecture of house 
fronts, and to which every property owner is obliged to 
submit the plan of his house, dates from the twelfth cent- 
ury. And who has not noticed the results, in that beauti- 
ful capital, of the civic pride of middle class and aristocracy 
when contemplating buildings full of character and origi- 
nality ? The ugly spirit of gain, which from year to year 
lowers ceilings, cuts up interior space, and wages war to 
the death upon gardens, must necessarily influence Parisian 
habits. People will soon be forced to live more out of doors 
than in. The sacredness of private life, the liberty of the 
home, where are they ? They begin with an income of fifty 
thousand francs a year. And even as it is, few millionnaires 
indulge in the luxury of a small mansion with a courtyard 
intervening between it and the street, and protected from 
the public gaze by a shady garden. 

When the Code undertook to meddle with inheritances 
and to equalize private fortunes, it produced these stone 
monstrosities that lodge thirty families and yield a return of 
a hundred thousand francs a year. And so, in fifty years, 
we shall be able to count the houses of the style of that 
inhabited by the Thuillier family at the opening of this 
story. It is a really curious abode, and deserves the dis- 
tinction of a minute description, were it only for the sake 
of contrasting the middle classes of the past with those of 
the present day. The situation and appearance of the 
house, which is to be the frame of this picture of manners 
and morals, carry a lower middle-class aroma which may 
attract or repel, according to the taste of the individual 
reader. 

To begin with, the house belonged to neither Monsieur 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 9 

nor Madame, but to Mademoiselle Thuillier, Monsieur 
Thuillier's oldest sister. Acquired in the first six months 
after the Revolution of 1830 by Mademoiselle Marie- Jean ne- 
Brigitte Thuillier, then of age, this house stands, about 
the middle of the Rue Saint-Dominique-d'Enfer, and on the 
right-hand side coming down from the Rue d'Enfer, in such 
a position that the main building, occupied by Monsieur 
Thuillier, is exposed to the southern sun. 

The steady movement of the Parisian population to the 
heights on the left bank of the Seine from the right had for 
some time been injuring the sale of property in the so-called 
Latin quarter, when certain reasons, which will appear from 
Monsieur Thuillier's character and habits, induced his sister 
to purchase land. She bought this estate for the trifling- 
capital of forty-six thousand francs, with subsidiary outlays 
of six thousand francs, the whole amounting to fifty-two 
thousand francs. A detailed account of the property in 
advertisement fashion, and of the results of Monsieur 
Thuillier's exertions, will show how so many fortunes ma- 
tured in July, 1830, while so many others foundered. 

On the street side, the house presented a weather-beaten, 
rough-cast plaster front, grooved with the trowel in imita- 
tion of freestone. This kind of front is so familiar to Paris, 
and so ugly, that the city ought to offer prizes to land- 
holders building in stone and devising new fronts. This 
grayish wall, provided with seven windows, was three 
stories high and topped with garrets roofed with tiles. The 
courtyard gate, large and substantial, showed by its con- 
struction that the main building facing the street dated from 
Empire days, when the Enfer precinct still enjoyed some 
favor. 

On one side was the porter's box, on the other the main 



10 HALZAC'S WORKS 

stairway. Two buildings joined to the next houses had 
once served as coach houses, stables, and servants 1 quarters, 
but since 1830 had been converted into shops. 

The right side was rented by a wholesale stationer, 
called Monsieur Metivier the nephew, the left side by a 
bookseller named Barbet. The offices of both tradesmen 
were situated over their shops, and the bookseller lived on 
the first floor, the stationer on the second of the large house 
fronting the street. Metivier the nephew, more commission 
agent than merchant, and Barbet, more broker than book- 
seller, respectively held these large warehouses to keep 
stationary bought in bulk from embarrassed manufacturers, 
and sets of books left as security for loans. 

The shark librarian and the pike stationer lived on per- 
fectly amicable terms, and their transactions, devoid of the 
bustle belonging to the retail business, brought few vehicles 
into the quiet courtyard, from between whose paving-stones 
the porter sometimes weeded up tufts of grass. Monsieur 
Barbet and Monsieur Metivier, who scarcely do more than 
figure as supernumeraries in this story, rendered their land- 
lords visits at rare intervals, and because of their punctual- 
ity in meeting their rent were ranked as good tenants; they 
passed for very honest people in the eyes of the Thuillier 
circle. 

As for the third story facing the street, it comprised two 
apartments. One was occupied by Monsieur Dutocq, clerk 
of the court and superannuated government official, a fre- 
quenter of the Thuillier household. The other was in- 
habited by the hero of this sketch. But we must for the 
moment be satisfied with stating the amount of his rental, 
seven hundred francs, and his position in this centre three 
years before the curtain rises on this domestic drama. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 11 

The clerk of the court, a bachelor of fifty, lived in the 
larger of the two apartments on the third story ; he kept a 
cook and paid one thousand francs rent. Two years after 
her purchase, Mademoiselle Thuillier took seven thousand 
two hundred francs in revenue from a house which the 
former proprietor had furnished with shutters, renewed 
inside, and adorned with mirrors, without being able to 
either let or sell it, and the Thuilliers, quite grandly 
lodged, as will be seen, were sporting themselves in one 
of the finest gardens of that ward, whose trees even shaded 
the little deserted Rue Neuve-Sainte Catherine. Standing 
between the court and the garden, their dwelling seemed to 
have been the caprice of some commoner grown rich, under 
Louis XIV., of a parliamentary president, or of a quiet 
student. Its handsome freestone, worn by the wind and the 
weather, had about it a certain air of Louis XIV. grandeur; 
the courses were imitated by grooves; the red brick panel- 
ling reminds one of the stables at Versailles; the arched 
windows had masks, by way of ornamentation, over the 
keystone and under the sill. The door finally, with its 
little panes through which the garden was visible, was of 
that plain, unpretentious make often employed for the 
porter's lodge in royal palaces. 

This five- windowed lodge was two stories above the 
ground floor, and had a pyramid -shaped roof pointing to a 
weathercock, and pierced with tall chimneys and oval sky- 
lights. Perhaps this structure was the remains of some 
great mansion, though nothing has been found on the maps 
of old Paris to substantiate this conjecture, and Mademoi- 
selle Thuillier's title-deeds, moreover, specified as owner 
Petitot, the celebrated enamel painter in the time of Louis 
XIV., who had derived the property from President Le- 



12 BALZAC'S WORKS 

camus. It is probable that the president lived in this lodge 
while having his famous house built in the Rue de Thorigny. 
So the legal robe and the artist's brush had both passed 
over the place. And then, what a broad sense of comfort 
and pleasure had ordered over the interior arrangements! 
Entering the square hall that forms a closed vestibule, you 
have at your right the foot of a stone staircase, with two 
windows upon the garden; under the staircase is the door to 
the cellar. The vestibule communicates with the dining- 
room, which is lighted from the courtyard. This dining- 
room adjoins a kitchen opening into Barbet's storerooms. 
Behind the staircase and overlooking the garden is a long, 
handsome parlor, with two windows. The first and second 
stories compose two complete apartments, and the servants' 
rooms are recognizable by the skylights in the four-cornered 
roof. A magnificent porcelain stove adorns this great 
square hall, which receives its light from two opposite glass 
doors. The ceiling of this place, paved with black and 
white marble, has projecting joists once painted and gilded, 
but — in the time of the Empire no doubt — uniformly daubed 
white. Facing the stove is a red. marble cistern with marble 
basin. The three doors, of the parlor, the salon, and the 
dining-room, show paintings in their upper panels which 
more than stand in need of renovation. The woodwork is 
clumsy, but the decoration is not unworthy of praise. The 
salon, wainscoted throughout, recalls the Great Century 
by its Languedoc marble chimney-piece, its ceiling with 
corner ornaments, and the shape of the windows, which 
have retained their minute panes. The dining-room, com- 
municating with the salon by folding-doors, is flagged with 
stone; the panelling is all in oak, unpainted, and hideous 
modern wall-paper takes the place of the old-fashioned 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 13 

hangings. The ceiling is of coffered chestnut, and has been 
left intact. The parlor, modernized by Thuillier, is all out 
of harmony. The gold and white of the salon are so faded 
that only red lines appear instead of the gold, and the 
yellowed white is scaling off. Never could the Latin words 
Otium cum dignitate receive a more real comment than this 
noble habitation once afforded. The ironwork on the 
banister is of a workmanship at once worthy of the judge 
and the artist, and indeed, to discover them in this legacy 
of past greatness, the discerning eye of the artist is wanted. 
The Thuilliers and their predecessors did their best to 
dishonor this treasure of an affluent upper middle class by 
the habits and devices of the lower middle class. Do you 
see those walnut chairs upholstered with horsehair; a 
mahogany table with an oilcloth cover; mahogany side- 
boards; a second-hand carpet under the table; lamps of 
watery metal; cheap wall-paper with a red border; execra- 
ble pictures in black and white, and calico curtains edged 
with red fringes in that dining-room where Petitot and his 
friends feasted? Do you understand the effect upon the 
salon of the portraits of Monsieur, Madame, and Mademoi- 
selle Thuillier, by Pierre Grassou, the painter of the middle 
classes; the card-tables that have done duty for twenty 
years; brackets in Empire style; a tea-table supported by a 
huge lyre; furniture of shabby mahogany covered with 
printed velvet on a chocolate background; on the chimney- 
piece fluted candelabra beside a clock representing the 
Bellona of the Empire; damask curtains and curtains of 
flowered muslin held by curtain bands of stamped brass? 
And on the polished floor a second-hand carpet! The hand- 
some oblong vestibule has velvet benches, and its sculp- 
tured walls are hidden by wardrobes of various dates and 



14 BALZAC'S WORKS 

brought from all the houses that the Thuilliers had up to 
then lived in. A plank conceals the cistern, and a smoky 
lamp of the year 1815 has its place there. And to complete 
the picture, fear — that unlovely divinity — has supplied the 
garden and the courtyard entrances each with a sheet-iron 
door, opened back against the wall by day and closed at 
night. 

It is easy to understand the miserable desecration of this 
monument of seventeenth-century private life by the domes- 
tic life of the nineteenth century. In the early days of the 
Consulate perhaps a master builder who had bought this 
little house conceived the idea of utilizing the ground front- 
ing upon the street. He therefore probably demolished the 
fine courtyard gate, flanked by the little lodges which made 
this charming home so complete. Thus had the enterprise 
of a Parisian proprietor branded the very face of this ele- 
gance, just as the newspaper and its presses, the factory and 
its storehouses, commerce and its counters, ousted the aris- 
tocracy and the old burghers as well as the lords of finance 
and the lights of the law, wherever these had manifested 
their importance. What a strange tale is that of Parisian 
title-deeds! On the land where once stood the abode of the 
Chevalier Bayard du Terrail, in the Rue des Batailles, a 
madhouse now flourishes, and the Third Estate built a 
road on the site of the Necker mansion. Old Paris is going, 
following in the wake of the kings who have gone. For 
one masterpiece of architecture saved by a Polish princess 
(the Princess Czartoryska, who lived in the Hotel Lambert), 
how many smaller palaces, like Petitot's house, fall into the 
hands of such as the Thuilliers! 

Here are the reasons that led up to Mademoiselle Thuil- 
lier's proprietorship of this house. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 15 

At the fall of the Villele ministry, Monsieur Louis 
Jerome Thuillier, who then counted twenty-six years' ser- 
vice in the department of finance, became assistant chief; 
hut scarcely had he tasted the delights of being second in 
command — once his least ambition — when the events of 
July, 1830, compelled him to resign. He very astutely 
calculated that a pension would be handsomely and readily 
forthcoming from men glad of another place to dispose of, 
and he guessed right, for his superannuation allowance 
was fixed at seventeen hundred francs. When the long- 
sighted assistant chief spoke of retiring from the govern- 
ment service, his sister, much more a companion in life 
to him than his wife, trembled for his future. 

"What will become of Thuillier?" was a question that 
with mutual concern Madame and Mademoiselle Thuillier, 
then lodging in a small third-story flat, Rue d'Argenteuil, 
asked each other. 

"Getting his pension settled will give him something to 
do for a time," Mademoiselle Thuillier had replied, "but 1 
am thinking of investing my savings in a manner that will 
cut out his work for him. Yes, it will be almost like an 
official post to manage a piece of property." 

"Oh! my sister, you will save his life!" cried Madame 
Thuillier. 

"But I have always kept that crisis in Jerome's life 
before me!" answered the old maid with a motherly air. 

Mademoiselle Thuillier had too often heard her brother 
say: "Soand-So is dead! He did not survive his super- 
annuation by two years!" She had too often heard Colle- 
ville, Thuillier's intimate friend, and a government clerk 
like himself, joke about this climateric episode of official 
life. He used to say: "We shall all of us have our turn, 



16 BALZAC'S WORKS 

to be sure!" which, in the ears of Mademoiselle Thuillier, 
sounded ominous enough. The step from active service to 
superannuation is indeed the critical time of the govern- 
ment clerk's existence. Those who are pensioned off, who 
are ignorant of any other profession, or unable to enter one, 
change very strangely : some die, many take to angling, an 
entertainment which in its vacuity closely resembles desk 
work; others again — sly dogs — buy industrial shares, lose 
their savings, and after the failure of the concern are glad 
enough to accept a place in it after its reorganization by 
abler hands. Then the clerk rubs his own, saying to him- 
self: "Of course I foresaw what a future this business had!" 
But they nearly all struggle against their old habits. Mad- 
emoiselle Thuillier was looked upon as the guardian angel 
of the fraternal household; she was deficient neither in 
strength of mind nor determination, as her private history 
will show. This superiority over her surroundings enabled 
her to judge her brother fairly, deeply devoted to him 
though she was. After witnessing the crash of hopes 
founded on the success of her idol, her strongly maternal 
instinct prevented her from overrating the assistant chief's 
social capacities. 

Thuillier and his sister were children of the bead porter 
at the Department of Finance. Thanks to his shortness of 
vision, Jerome had escaped military conscription and any 
likelihood of it. The father's ambition was a clerkship for 
the son. At the beginning of the nineteenth century too 
many places had to be filled in the army not to allow of 
a number of vacancies in the government offices, and the 
shortage in subordinate clerks enabled fat father Thuillier 
to see his son walk the first steps in the official hierarchy. 
The porter died in 1814, leaving Jerome no legacy but the 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 17 

prospect of becoming assistant chief. Fat old Thuillier and 
his wife — who died in 1810 — had retired about 1806 with a 
pension as their whole fortune, having spent their earnings 
in giving Jerome a suitable education and in keeping him 
and his sister. 

The effect of the Restoration on the civil service is com- 
mon knowledge. From the forty -one official divisions abol- 
ished came a large residue of reputable clerks who asked for 
lower places than they had been holding. Besides these 
rights of priority there were to be considered the claims of 
exiled families ruined by the Revolution. Between these 
competitors, Jerome was lucky enough not to be turned out 
on some thin pretext. He lived in constant anxiety until 
the day of his fortuitous promotion to the assistant chief- 
ship, when he felt sure of a respectable pension. 

This hasty review may explain how slight were Monsieur 
Thuillier's accomplishments. He had acquired the Latin, 
mathematics, history, and geography that one learns at a 
boarding school, but he had not advanced beyond the sec- 
ond class, his father seizing an opportunity to procure his 
admission to the civil service by boasting of his son's 
"splendid handwriting." If, therefore, little Thuillier in- 
scribed the first list of names in the new government ledger, 
he missed his course of rhetoric and philosophy. Once in 
the official rut, he cultivated letters very little, and the arts 
still less; he gained a mechanical proficiency in his work, 
and when, under the Empire, he rose to the sphere of the 
first-class clerks, without really assimilating their style or 
conversation, he took on a superficial varnish that masked 
the porter's son. His ignorance taught him to observe 
silence, which, in fact, served him very well. He accus- 
tomed himself, under the Imperial system, to the passive 



18 BALZAC'S WORKS 

obedience so pleasing to superiors, and it was to this quality 
he owed his subsequent promotion to the rank of assistant 
chief. His daily routine ripened into valuable experience; 
his quiet manners and his silence covered his lack of educa- 
tion. This nonentity of spirit proved useful when a nobodv 
was wanted. Some apprehension was felt of offending two 
parties in the Chamber of Deputies, each indorsing a can- 
didate, and the authorities got out of the difficulty by 
adhering to the rule of seniority. 

In this way did Thuillier become assistant chief. Mad- 
emoiselle Thuillier, knowing her brother's abhorrence of 
reading, and the impossibility of any branch of business 
giving him the equivalent of the worries of office work, 
she had wisely decided to thrust the cares of proprietor- 
ship upon him, the digging of a garden, the minutely triv- 
ial details of middle-class life, and the petty gossip of the 
neighborhood. 

The transference of the Thuillier brigade from the Rue 
d'Argenteuil to the Rue Saint-Dominique-d'Enfer, the 
proper care to be exercised in the purchase, the engage- 
ment of a competent porter, the procuring of tenants — this 
took up Thuillier's time from 1831 to 1832. When the 
removal was accomplished, and the sister saw that Jerome 
had survived the operation, she found him other pursuits, 
which shall be mentioned further on, but the basis for 
which was Thuillier's own character — now fitly to be 
outlined. 

Although a porter's son, Thuillier was what is called 
a fine-looking man. His figure was above the average 
height, and slender. With his glasses on, his face was 
quite agreeable, but, as in the case of many near-sighted 
persons, dreadful when he took them off; for the habit of 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 19 

looking through spectacles had cast a sort of mist over 
his eyes. 

From eighteen to thirty, Thuillier made conquests among 
the ladies in the social sphere that began at the small shop- 
keeper and reached up to the head of a division in the civil 
service. But it is true that the wars of the Empire depleted 
Parisian society in carrying off the men of sinew to battle- 
fields, and to this fact is perhaps the softness of this mid- 
century generation due. Thuillier, obliged to rely upon 
fascinations other than intellectual, learned to dance so 
well as to be noted; he was called the ''handsome Thuil- 
lier"; he played billiards to perfection; he knew how to 
cut out figures in paper; his friend Colleville taught him 
the art of warbling so well that he could sing fashionable 
ballads. From these little accomplishments resulted that 
semblance of success which deceives young people and 
lends them false hopes. Mademoiselle Thuillier, from 
1806 to 1814, believed in her brother as much as Mad- 
emoiselle d'Orleans did in Louis-Philippe; she was proud 
of Jerome, and in her mind's eye saw him at the head of 
an office, thanks to his small triumphs in a circle which 
would have been closed to him at any other time than the 
dnvs of the Empire, when society was strangely mixed. 

However, handsome Thuillier's triumphs never were of 
long duration, for the women were no more anxious to keep 
his affections than he was to remain faithful; he might have 
supplied a comedy with the title "Don Juan in Spite of 
Himself." This regular business of doing the beautiful 
wore Thuillier out to the point of aging him: his face, as 
wrinkled as an old coquette's, credited him with ten years 
more than his birth certificate. But he had retained a habit 
of admiring himself in the glass, of putting his hands to his 



20 BALZAC'S WORKS 

waist to show it off, of posing in the attitudes of a dancer — 
all of which prolonged his lease of the nickname "handsome 
Thuillier." 

The truth of 1806 became absurdity in 1826. Thuillier 
still preserved some vestiges of the dress of the Empire 
dandy, which, by the way, did not ill become his pensioned 
dignity. He continued to wear the white neckcloth, 
with the countless folds burying the chin, and whose ends 
threatened the safety of the passer-by right and left. Fol- 
lowing the fashions at some distance of time, he adapted 
them to his own person. He wore his hat far back, and 
in summer low shoes and fine stockings. His long over- 
coat was an echo of the "levite" of the Empire; he ha' 
not yet relinquished frilled shirt fronts and white wais 
coats; he still toyed with his 1810 cane and threw out his 
chest. No one who saw Thuillier walking on the boule- 
vards would have taken him for the son of a man who 
served luncheon for the clerks at the Finance Department 
in the livery of Louis XVI. No — he looked like a diplo- 
mat of the Empire, or a sub-prefect. Now, not only did 
Mademoiselle Thuillier quite innocently exploit her broth- 
er's vanity by encouraging him in an excessive care of his 
person, but she also bestowed on him all the joys of familv 
life by bringing near him a household whose existence had 
almost run parallel with his own. 

It is Colleville who is in question, Thuillier's intimate 
friend. But before painting Pylades, it is the more nec- 
essary to first dispose of Orestes, as explanation must be 
rendered why Thuillier, handsome Thuillier, had no family 
— since a family only exists by children. And so we will 
speak of Madame and Mademoiselle Thuillier. 

Marie-Jeanne-Brigitte Thuillier, four years older than 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 21 

her brother, was completely sacrificed to him; it was easier 
to start one in a career than to provide a dowry for another. 
To some people adversity is a torch that lights up the dark, 
sordid places of life. Her brother's superior in birth, energy 
and brains, Brigitte was one of those natures who under the 
hard hammer of fate grow tough, compact, and resistant, 
not to say inflexible. Jealous of her liberty, she wanted 
to emancipate herself from the porter's lodge, and become 
the sole arbitress of her destiny. 

At the age of fourteen she retired to a garret, not far 
from the treasury, then in the Rue Vivienne, and near the 
Rue Vrilliere, where the Bank of France still stands to-day. 
She courageously took up an industry not widely pursued, 
: nd which, thanks to the patronage her father enjoyed, was 
a privileged one. It consisted in sewing bags for the Bank, 
the Treasury, and the great financial establishments. In 
the third year she was employing two workwomen. By 
investing her savings in government bonds, in 1814 she 
boasted an income of three thousand six hundred francs, 
the result of fifteen years' toil. She had few expenses, 
and dined nearly every day with her father during his life- 
time. It is a well-known fact, too, that during the last con- 
vulsions of the Empire the aforesaid bonds were down at 
forty odd francs, so that her apparently large accumulations 
were not improbably extensive. 

Upon the death of the porter, Brigitte and Jdrome, aged 
twenty-seven and twenty-three, cast in their lot together. 
Brother and sister had a deep affection for one another. 
Whenever Jerome, then in the season of his triumphs, was 
pressed for money, his sister, clad in homespun, and her 
fingers skinned by sewing-thread, always had a few gold 
pieces to offer her brother. In the eyes of Brigitte, Jerome 



22 BALZAC'S WORKS 

was the handsomest and most fascinating man in the French 
empire. To keep house for her beloved brother, to be in- 
itiated into the secrets of Lindoro and Don Juan, to be his 
slave and his poodle dog, to fetch and carry — this was the 
dream of Brigitte. She sacrificed herself almost passion- 
ately to an idol whose self-love she fostered while sanctify- 
ing it. For fifteen thousand francs she made over her busi- 
ness to her forewoman, and settled in the Rue d'Argenteuil 
with Thuillier, as the mother, protectress, and servant of 
this "darling of the ladies." Brigitte, with prudence natu- 
ral in one owing everything to her discretion and the labor 
of her hands, kept her brother in ignorance of the amount of 
her fortune; she no doubt feared the extravagance of a man 
of many conquests, and contributed only six hundred francs 
a year to their expenses, which, together with Jerome's eigh- 
teen hundred, enabled them to make ends meet. 

From the first day of their partnership, Thuillier listened 
to his sister as to an oracle, consulted her about the most 
trifling matters, hid none of his secrets from her, and thus 
tempted her with the fruit of dominion, which was to be- 
come her pet sin. The sister had sacrificed everything to 
the brother; she had given everything for a place in his 
heart; she lived by and for him. Brigitte's ascendency 
over Jerome was singularly emphasized by the marriage 
she arranged for him about 1814. 

Observing the startling changes made in the government 
offices by the new-comers of the Restoration, and perceiving 
how the returning nobility was displacing the middle class, 
Brigitte and her brother thoroughly understood the crisis 
in which their social aspirations were being wrecked. No 
more glory for handsome Thuillier with the aristocrats suc- 
ceeding to the plebeians of the Empire! 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 23 

Thuillier, too weak-minded to adopt political opinions, 
felt, as his sister did, the necessity of making the best of 
his remnauts of youthful attractions. Brigitte, jealous wo- 
man though she was, wanted her brother to marry, because 
although she alone could give him happiness, a Madame 
Thuillier was the unavoidable accessory to a child or two. 
If Brigitte was not blessed with all the wit requisite to 
carry out her desires, she at least had the instinct of power, 
for she was quite without education, and went straight on 
with the obstinacy of one accustomed to win. She pos- 
sessed the gift of housekeeping, the genius of economy, 
and a love of work. She saw that she would never find 
a wife for Jerome in a higher social set, where inquiries 
would be made as to their mode of life, and where the 
presence of herself as mistress of the house might give rise 
to apprehension. She therefore looked for people in a 
lower scale of society who might be dazzled, and among 
them met with a desirable match for her brother. 

The oldest messenger of the Bank of France, Lemprun 
by name, had an only daughter, Celeste. Mademoiselle 
Celeste Lemprun would be heiress to the fortune of her 
mother, the only daughter of an agriculturist. This for- 
tune consisted of some acres of land in the vicinity of Paris, 
still operated by the old man, besides the wealth of old 
man Lemprun. Lemprun, then head messenger, enjoyed 
the respect and favor of the management and the auditors. 
And the board of directors, hearing of Celeste's marriage to 
a elerk of good standing in the Finance Department, prom- 
ised a bonus of six thousand francs. This bonus, added to 
twelve thousand francs from Father Lemprun, and twelve 
thousand more given by Sire Galard, a market-gardener of 
Auteuil, brought her marriage portion up to thirty thousand 



24 BALZAC'S WORKS 

francs. Old Gralard and the Lempruns were delighted with 
this match; the head messenger knew Mademoiselle Thuil- 
lier as one of the worthiest and most upright women in 
Paris. Brigitte, moreover, made her securities shine in the 
eyes of Lemprun by confiding to him that she would never 
marry, and neither he nor his wife would ever have taken 
the liberty to criticise Brigitte. They were much impressed 
by the splendor of handsome Thuillier's position, and so the 
wedding, to use a conventional phrase, went off to the entire 
satisfaction of everybody. 

The governor and the secretary of the bank acted as wit- 
nesses for the bride, as Thuillier's chief of division and his 
head clerk did for him. Six days after the ceremony, old 
Lemprun was the victim of an audacious robbery, spoken 
of in the newspapers of the day, but speedily forgotten 
during the stirring events of 1815. The perpetrators had 
escaped all pursuit; Lemprun wanted to make good the 
amount, and although the Bank charged this deficit to the 
profit and loss account, the poor old fellow died of grief. 
He looked upon this disaster as a blow at his life-long 
honesty. 

Madame Lemprun gave up her whole inheritance to her 
daughter, Madame Thuillier, and went to live at Auteuil 
with her father, who died of an accident in 1817. Fright- 
ened at the prospects of having to manage or lease her 
father's gardens and fields, Madame Lemprun begged Bri- 
gitte, whose capacity and integrity astonished her, to liqui- 
date Galard's property, and to arrange matters so that her 
daughter, coming into the whole of it, would assure her an 
allowance of fifteen hundred francs, and leave her in pos- 
session of the house at Auteuil. The agriculturist's land, 
sold in lots, yielded thirty thousand francs. Lemprun's 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 25 

legacy was of the like amount, and these two sums, to- 
gether with the dowry, made a total of ninety thousand 
francs. 

The dowry was invested in bank shares at a time when 
they were worth nine hundred francs. Brigitte secured an 
annuity of five thousand francs from the sixty thousand — ■ 
five per cents being at sixty — and caused the widow Lem- 
prun to be credited with a yearly allowance of fifteen hun- 
dred francs. Thus, at the beginning of the year 1818, the 
sum of six hundred francs paid by Brigitte, the three thou- 
sand four hundred belonging to Thuillier, Celeste's income 
of thirty-five hundred, and the interest on thirty-four Bank 
of France shares, produced, all told, a revenue of twelve 
thousand francs, which was under the sole control of 
Brigitte. It is necessary to enter into these financial de- 
tails, not only to forestall possible objections, but to clear 
the stage for the play. 

To begin with, Brigitte gave her brother five hundred 
francs a month, and guided the helm so that five thousand 
francs covered all housekeeping expenses. She allowed her 
sister-in-law fifty francs a month, demonstrating that forty 
was enough for herself. In order to establish her rule by 
the power of money, Brigitte amassed what remained of her 
private income; she transacted, they said in the offices, 
usurious loans, her brother acting as intermediary in the 
guise of a bill discounter. If it is stated that from 1813 to 
1830 Brigitte capitalized sixty thousand francs, the accum- 
ulation of such a sum can be accounted for by the varying 
rates of interest, all the way up to forty per cent, which all 
these operations involved. 

From the very beginning, Brigitte broke in poor Ma- 
dame Thuillier with spur and bit. The luxury of tyranny 
(B)— Vol. 16 



26 BALZAC'S WORKS 

was superfluous, as the victim resigned herself promptly. 
Celeste was correctly judged by Brigitte. She was devoid 
of intellect and education, used to a sedentary, tranquil life, 
and of an exceedingly gentle disposition. Pious she was in 
the full sense of the word; she would have undergone 
voluntary penitential exercises for doing unintentional 
harm to her neighbor. She knew nothing whatever of 
life; she was accustomed to being waited on by her mother, 
who performed all the house work, and obliged to keep 
very quiet because of her lymphatic constitution, suscep- 
tible to the least exertion. A Parisian daughter of the 
people she was, of that class in which the children are 
rarely beautiful, born as they are in an atmosphere of 
poverty and overwork, living in stuffy rooms, under all 
sorts of restraint and without the ordinary comforts. 

At the time of the marriage Celeste was a pale blonde, 
stout, leisurely, and with a very silly face. Her forehead 
was too broad and projected too far, and under this wax- 
colored dome, her face, which was obviously too small, and 
ended in a point like the nose of a mouse, inspired some of 
the guests with the fear that sooner or later she would be a 
madwoman. Her light blue eyes and the eternal smile flit- 
ting on her lips only strengthened this idea. On the day of 
her wedding she exhibited the demeanor and the conduct 
of a prisoner condemned to death who is wishing for a 
speedy end. 

l 'She is as round as a ball," said Colleville to Thuillier. 

Brigitte was the knife which was to enter into this soul, 
and with which hers stood in most forcible contrast. Her 
own was a regular and severe beauty, roughened by tasks 
which from her youth had bowed her down under coarse, 
ungrateful work, and by secret privations she imposed upon 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 27 

herself in order to accumulate a larger hoard of savings. 
Her complexion, discolored early in life, had a steely tint; 
her brown eyes were bordered with black, or rather bruised 
circles; her upper lip wore a brownish down, as though it 
had been smoked; she had thin lips, and her imperious 
forehead was thrown into relief by a head of hair once 
black, but which now was turning gray. She held herself 
as straight as any beauty, and everything in her appearance 
displayed the rough nature of her work, and her great 
energy and the price which she had paid for her efforts. 

Brigitte looked upon Celeste as nothing but a victim, 
another subject under her mastery. She soon reproached 
her with being limp, a favorite word in her vocabulary, and 
this jealous old maid, who would have been seriously put 
out at finding her sister-in-law active, felt a savage pleasure 
in stimulating the inertness of the feeble creature. Celeste 
was ashamed at seeing her sister-in-law display such tidiness 
as a chambermaid's, and performing the smallest household 
duties. When she fell sick, Brigitte immediately was all 
attention on behalf of Madame Thuillier; she nursed her as 
if she had been her own sister, and said to her before Thuil- 
lier: "You are not strong enough — well, then, take it easy, 
little one!" She made a great deal of Celeste's incapacity, 
with that display of consolation by which strength, assum- 
ing an air of pity for weakness, finds the means of wording 
its own praise. 

Then, like all despotic natures which like to show their 
strength and are all tenderness for physical suffering, she 
cared for her sister-in-law in a manner to satisfy Celeste's 
mother whenever she came to see her daughter. When 
Madame Thuillier was fully restored, she spoke of her, in 
such a way as to be overheard, as a "dolt" and a "good-tor- 



28 BALZAC'S WORKS 

nothing." Celeste went to weep in her room, and Thuillier, 
surprising her there in the act of wiping her eyes, made ex- 
cuses for his sister — "She is very good, but she is quick- 
tempered; she loves in her own way. She treats me just 
the same." 

Celeste, remembering the motherly treatment she had re- 
ceived, forgave her sister-in-law. Brigitte, moreover, treated 
her brother as though he were the king of the place. She 
held up his virtues to Celeste, made an autocrat of him, and 
an infallible pope. Madame Thuillier, bereft of her father 
and her grandfather, and almost deserted by her mother, 
who only came to see her on Thursdays, and whom she 
visited on Sundays in fine weather, had no one to love but 
her husband: first of all because he was her husband, and 
then because to her he remained handsome Thuillier. He, 
on his part, sometimes really treated her like a wife, and 
these reasons combined sufficed to make him an adorable 
being in her sight. He seemed the more perfect to her as 
he often took the side of Celeste and scolded his sister, not 
indeed in his wife's interest, but through selfishness, and in 
order to secure peace in the house for the short moments 
which he spent there. 

As a fact, handsome Thuillier came into dinner, and 
after going out returned to bed very late. He went to balls 
and to see his friends all alone, just as though he were still 
a bachelor, so that these two women were continually 
thrown into each other's company. 

By degrees Celeste assumed a passive attitude, and be- 
came just what Brigitte wanted — a slave. The Queen 
Elizabeth of this household passed from her domineering 
position to a sort of pity for a victim who was always being 
sacrificed. She finally moderated her haughty air, her cut- 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 29 

ting words, and her contemptuous tone, as soon as she was 
certain of having broken her sister into the yoke. Once 
she perceived the scars made by the collar on the neck of 
her slave, she bestowed as much care upon her as though 
she were her own property, and C61este knew better days. 
Comparing the beginning with the sequel, she conceived a 
sort of affection for her jailer. There was but one chance of 
providing herself with the means of defence, and enabling 
her to take a stand in a family enriched by her fortune, 
without herself obtaining anything but the crumbs from the 
table. But this chance never came to her. For after six 
years, Celeste was childless. Her sterility, which month by 
month made her shed torrents of tears, for a long time pro- 
voked Brigitte's contempt, and she reproved her with being 
of no use at all, not even good enough to make children. 
This old maid, who had promised herself to love her 
brother's child as her own, was slow in getting used to the 
idea of this irremediable misfortune. 

At the opening of this story, in 1840, at the age of forty- 
six, Celeste had ceased weeping, for she had acquired the 
sorrowful certainty of never becoming a mother. Very 
strangely, after twenty-five years of this existence, in 
which victory had finally blunted and then broken the 
knife, Brigitte loved Celeste as much as Celeste loved her. 
In the course of time and of a life of ease, the friction of 
domestic life had rubbed off the corners and smoothed the 
asperities, and the resigned disposition of Celeste and her 
soft nature prepared a serene autumn. The two women 
were drawn together by their common admiration for 
Thuillier — that happy egoist — which was the one great 
sentiment of their lives. So that in another way these two 
women, both childless, had, as all women who vainly wish 



30 BALZAC'S WORKS 

for children, selected a child as the object of their love. 
This sham maternity, as strong, however, as a real one, 
requires an explanation. And this takes us to the heart 
of this drama, and will account for the occupation that 
Mademoiselle Thuillier had found it necessary to give 
her brother. 

Thuillier had entered as supernumerary clerk witn 
Colleville, who has been mentioned as his friend. In con- 
trast to Thuillier's dull and regular household was offered 
that of Colleville, and if it must be admitted that this for- 
tuitous contrast is not very moral, we must add that it is 
indispensable to this part of the tale, unhappily too true, 
but for which the historian is in no wise responsible. This 
Colleville was the only son of a talented musician, once 
first violin at the Opera. Colleville and Thuillier were in- 
separable friends, without secrets from one another, and 
their friendship, begun at the age of fifteen, had remained 
unclouded till 1839. 

Colleville was one of the clerks called "pluralists" in 
the civil service. These clerks are always conspicuous 
for their energy. Colleville, a good musician, owed to his 
father's name and influence the place of first clarinet at the 
Op£ra Comique, and while he was a bachelor, being a little 
better off than Thuillier, often shared with his friend. But 
differently from Thuillier, Colleville made a marriage of love 
when he espoused Mademoiselle Flavie, the natural child of 
a celebrated dancer at the Opera, and the supposed daughter 
of a very rich upholsterer. Flavie was destined by her 
birth and her proclivities to the same sad life as her mother, 
when Colleville, who had frequent occasions to see the 
dancer, fell in love with Flavie, and married her. Prince 
Galathionne, who in September, 1815, was "protecting" 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 81 

the celebrated dancer, then nearing the end of her brilliant 
career, bestowed a dowry of twenty thousand francs upon 
Flavie, to which her mother added a gorgeous trousseau. 
The habitual visitors of her house and her colleagues at the 
Opera contributed presents of jewels and silverware, so that 
the Colleville household was better off for superfluities than 
for cash. Flavie, brought up in luxury, to begin with, had 
a charming apartment, furnished by her mother's decorator, 
where this young woman held court, indulging her tastes 
for the arts and artists with a certain degree of elegance. 
Madame Colleville was at once pretty and attractive; she 
was witty, lively, graceful, and, in a word, a good soul. 
The dancer, aged forty-three, retired from the stage, and 
went to live in the country, thus depriving her daughter 
of her former resources. Madame Colleville kept a rather 
pleasant, but decidedly extravagant house. From 1816 to 
1826 she had five children. A musician at night, from 
seven until nine in the morning Colleville kept a merchant's 
books. By ten he was at his office. By thus blowing on a 
piece of wood in the evening, and by performing double 
bookkeeping in the morning, he made between seven and 
eight thousand francs in a year. 

Madame Colleville played at lady. She received on 
Wednesdays, and gave a concert once a month and a dinner 
every fortnight. She only saw Colleville at dinner, and 
when he came home at midnight, when sometimes she had 
not returned herself. She used to go to the theatres, as 
frequently a box was given her, and she would send word 
to Colleville to call for her at the house where she happened 
to be dining or supping. The fare at Madame Colleville's 
was excellent, and the society, though mixed, was undoubt- 
edly amusing; she received noted actresses, painters, men 



32 BALZAC'S WORKS 

of letters, and a few men of wealth. Madame Colleville's 
style kept pace with Tullia's, now first dancer at the Opera, 
of whom she saw a great deal. But although the Colle- 
villes ate up their capital, and were often in straits at the 
end of the month, nevertheless Flavie kept out of debt. 
Oolleville was very happy; he continued to love his wife 
and was always her best friend. Regularly received with 
an affectionate smile and good spirits, he yielded to her 
graceful ways and irresistible fascinations. The tremen- 
dous energy he vented in his three occupations suited his 
character and his temperament very well. He was a large, 
stout man with a highly colored complexion, very jovial, 
spendthrift and full of whims. There was not a single 
quarrel in his house in ten years. In the office he passed 
for a hare-brained fellow, like all artists, they said. But 
superficial observers mistook the continual haste of the 
diligent worker for mere carelessness. 

Colleville was clever enough to assume stupidity. He 
boasted of his family happiness, and pretended to be con- 
cocting anagrams, for the sake of posing as a man absorbed 
by this passion. The clerks in his division at the depart- 
ment, the head of his office, and even the chief of the di- 
vision, came to his concerts. From time to time he very 
opportunely distributed theatre tickets, being in continual 
quest of leniency because of his frequent absences. The 
rehearsals took half of the time he ought to have spent at 
the office. But the talent and knowledge of music which 
he had inherited from his father was so considerable as to 
enable him to pass by attending only the general rehearsals. 
Thanks to the influence of Madame Colleville, the theatre 
and the office both yielded to the exigencies of this worthy 
pluralisms situation, who, besides, was giving private les- 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 33 

sons to a young man in high favor with his wife, a great 
future musician, and who often took his place in the orches- 
tra with good prospects of succeeding him there. 

Eventually, in fact, the young man obtained the post of 
first clarinet when Colleville resigned the place. All criti- 
cism of Flavie reduced itself to this: "She is a coquettish 
little piece, is little Madame Colleville." The oldest child, 
born in 1816, was the living image of our good friend Colle- 
ville. In 1818 Madame Colleville gave the preference to 
the cavalry above everything else, even above the arts; 
having cast her eye on a sub-lieutenant of dragoons, the 
young and wealthy Charles Gondreville, who was afterward 
killed in the Spanish war. She had already had her second 
son, whom she destined for the military career. In 1820 
she considered the Bank as the nurse of industry and the 
support of the State, and the great Keller, the famous 
orator, was her idol. She then had a son Francois, of 
whom she resolved to make a merchant later on, seeing that 
Keller's patronage would not be wanting. About the end 
of 1820, Thuillier, Madame and Monsieur Colleville's inti- 
mate friend and Flavie's admirer, felt the need of pouring 
his troubles into the bosom of this excellent woman, and 
confided his domestic woes to her. For six years he had 
been striving for children, and the Almighty had not 
blessed his endeavors, for poor Madame Thuillier prayed 
and went to Mass in vain. He gave a most faithful descrip- 
tion of Celeste, and the words "poor Thuillier" came from 
the lips of Madame Colleville, who on her side happened to 
be in poor spirits. Just then she had no special predilec- 
tion. So she made Thuillier's heart the repository of her 
troubles. The great Keller, that heroic figure in politics, 
was really mean and petty. She had seen the wrong side 



S4 BALZAC'S WORKS 

of fame, the follies of finance, and the superficiality of the 
tribune of the people. The orator had kept his beautiful 
eloquence for the Chamber, and had behaved very badly 
toward her. Thuillier was indignant. "Only blockheads 
know how to love," said he; "take me." The handsome 
Thuillier was reputed to be paying court mildly to Madame 
Colleville, and, as the current saying went in the days of 
the Empire, was one of her "attendants." 

"Oh, you have designs upon my wife," laughed Colle- 
ville; "take care, she will leave you in the lurch as she did 
all the others." By this rather clever speech Colleville 
saved his marital dignity at the office. From 1820 to 1821 
Thuillier took it upon himself to assist Colleville, who had 
so often helped him, and within eighteen months he loaned 
the Colleville household ten thousand francs, intending 
never to mention it. In the spring of 1820 Madame Colle- 
ville gave birth to a lovely little girl, Who had Monsieur 
and Madame Thuillier for her godfather and godmother. 
So she was baptized Celeste-Louise-Caroline-Brigitte. Mad- 
emoiselle Thuillier insisted on giving this little angel one 
of her Christian names. As a compliment to Colleville, 
the name of Caroline was selected. Old mother Lemprun 
undertook to have the child put out to nurse at Auteuil, 
where she lived, and where Celeste and her sister-in-law 
went to see her twice a week. As soon as Madame Colle- 
ville was on her feet again, she said in a frank and a 
friendly manner to Thuillier: 

"My dear friend, if we are to remain friends, we must 
be nothing more than friends. Colleville likes you — and — 
well — one is enough in the family." 

"Tell me," said handsome Thuillier to Tullia the dancer, 
who happened to be at Madame Colleville's then, "why do 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 35 

women not attach themselves to me more ? I am not an 
Apollo, neither am I a Vulcan; but I am a passable fellow, 
I have brains, I am constant." 

"ITou want to know the truth?" answered Tullia. 

"Yes," answered handsome Thuillier. 

"Well, if we sometimes love a fool, we never love an 
idiot." This was too much for Thuillier, and he did not 
recover from it. From that day forth he gave way to 
melancholy, and accused all women of ficklenesss. 

"I warned you, did I not?" said Colleville. "I am not 
Napoleon, I know, and would rather not have been Napo- 
leon, but I have a Josephine — a pearl!" 

The Secretary-General of the Finance Department, to 
whom Madame attributed more influence than he really 
had, and of whom she afterward said, "He is one of my 
mistakes," was just then the great man of the Colleville 
circle. But as he had not sufficient power to have Colle- 
ville nominated for the Bois- Levant division, Flavie had 
the good sense to resent the attentions he showed Madame 
Kabourdin, the head clerk's wife. A minx, she said, who 
had never invited her to her house, and who had twice been 
impertinent enough not to come to her concerts. 

Madame Colleville was deeply affected by the death of 
young Gondreville. She was inconsolable. She felt, she 
said, the hand of God. In 1824 she mended her ways, 
talked economy, stopped her receptions, busied herself 
with her children, tried to be a good mother of her fam- 
ily, and her friends ceased talking about her favorites. 
But she went to church, began a reform in her dress, wore 
sober gray, talked of Catholicism and proprieties, and the 
result of this mysticism was a pretty little boy, whom she 
called Theodore, signifying given by God. 



36 BALZAC'S WORKS 

The following year Colleville was created assistant 
chief of the division, and in 1828 became collector of a 
district of Paris. Colleville was granted the Cross of the 
Legion of Honor, which would entitle him to have his 
daughter brought up some day at Samt-Denis. The half- 
scholarship which Keller managed to obtain for Charles, 
the oldest of the Colleville children, was handed down 
to the second; Charles secured a whole scholarship at the 
school of Saint-Louis, and the third, under the benevolent 
aegis of Madame the Dauphiness, had a three-quarter's 
scholarship at the school of Henri IV. conferred upon 
him. 

In 1880, Colleville, who was happy enough not to have 
lost any of his children, was obliged to resign, owing to 
his devotion to the Legitimist monarchical cause. He was 
clever enough, however, to draw some profit from it in the 
shape of a pension of two thousand four hundred francs, 
due to him for time served, and an indemnity of ten thou- 
sand francs from his successor, and he was made an officer 
of the Legion of Honor besides. He, nevertheless, found 
himself in narrow circumstances, and in 1882 Madame Thuil- 
lier advised him to settle down near them, foreshadowing 
the prospect of securing a place for him in the mayor's 
office, to which he was in fact appointed in a fortnight, and 
drew a salary of a thousand crowns. Charles Colleville had 
just entered the Naval School. The schools to which the 
other two little Collevilles went were close by. The Semi- 
nary of Saint-Sulpice, where the third was eventually to go, 
was only a few doors from the Luxembourg. So Thuillier 
and Colleville had made up their minds to end their days 
together. In 1833, Madame Colleville, then thirty-five, 
came to live in the Rue d'Enfer with Celeste and little 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 37 

Theodore. Colleville resided at an equal distance from 
the mayor's office and the Rue Saint-Dominique. This 
family, after a life which had seen all the phases between 
brilliant gayety and unostentatious comfort, now found 
itself reduced to middle-class obscurity and a total for- 
tune of four thousand five hundred francs. 

Celeste was then twelve years old. She promised to be 
beautiful. She required masters. She would cost at least 
two thousand francs a year. Her mother felt under the 
obligation of placing her under the eye of her godfather 
and godmother. And she also adopted Mademoiselle Thuil- 
lier's opinion, who, without absolutely binding herself, let 
Madame Colleville understand plainly that her brother's 
fortune, her sister-in-law's, and her own, were intended 
for Celeste. And this little girl had remained at Auteuil 
up to the age of seven, worshipped by good old Madame 
Lemprun, who died in 1829, leaving twenty thousand francs 
in savings, and a house which was sold for the large sum 
of twenty -eight thousand francs. The child had seen very 
little of her mother, and a great deal of Madame and Mad- 
emoiselle Thuillier, since 1829, the year of her entrance to 
the paternal house. In 1828 she had fallen under the in- 
fluence of Plavie, who was then trying to attend to her 
duties faithfully, and who overdid them, like all women 
plagued with remorse. Flavie, without being a bad 
mother, brought her daughter up very strictly. She re- 
membered her own childhood, and made a secret vow to 
make an honest woman of Celeste, and not a light one. 
She, therefore, took her to Mass and saw to it that she 
went to her first communion under the auspices of a worthy 
Parisian priest, who afterward became a bishop. Celeste 
was all the more religious as Madame Thuillier, her god- 



38 BALZAC'S WORKS 

mother, was the same. The child adored her godmother, 
for she felt that the poor thing loved her better than her 
own mother. 

From 1833 to 1840 she was given a most splendid educa- 
tion, according to middle-class ideas. The best music mas- 
ters made a passable musician of her; she could paint fairly 
well in water colors; she danced to perfection; she had 
learned French, history, geography, Italian — all in fact that 
is requisite for the education of a young lady. Of average 
height, inclined to slightness and afflicted with short-sight- 
edness, she was neither plain nor pretty; she had a clear 
skin and bright complexion, but was totally innocent of 
distinction of manner. She had a good deal of sensibility 
in reserve, and her godfather and godmother, as well as 
Mademoiselle Thuillier and her father, were unanimous on 
one point — the great resource of mothers — that Celeste was 
capable of strong attachments. One of her chief beauties 
was a head of magnificent brown hair, but her hands and 
feet betrayed her plebeian origin. 

Celeste was conspicuous for cardinal virtues; she was 
kind, simple and sweet; she loved her father and mother, 
and would have given her life for them. Brought up in 
deep admiration for her godfather, Celeste entertained the 
loftiest ideas of the ex-assistant chief. These notions had 
been inculcated both by Brigitte, whom she was in the 
habit of calling "Aunt Brigitte," by Madame Thuillier, 
and by her mother. The house in the Rue Saint-Domi- 
nique was to her what the Palace of the Tuileries was 
to a courtier of the new dynasty. 

Thuillier had not resisted the action of the civil service 
treadmill, with its monotonous and wearing toil; and thus 
broken down, and jaded with his successes as a lady's man, 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 39 

the abilities of the ex-assistant chief were much attenuated 
when he came to live in the Rue Saint-Dominique, although 
his tired expression was mingled with an appearance of sat- 
isfaction which greatly resembled the fatuity of a superior 
clerk, and, somehow, it made a profound impression upon 
Celeste. She alone adored this colorless visage. And she 
was conscious of being the joy of the Thuillier household. 

The Collevilles and their children became the natural 
nucleus of the society with which Mademoiselle Thuillier 
ambitiously surrounded her brother. An old clerk of the 
Billardiere division, who for more than thirty years had lived 
in the Saint- Jacques quarter, Monsieur Phellion, a major in 
the National Guard, was at once recognized by the former 
collector and ex-assistant chief at the first review he wit- 
nessed. Phellion was one of the best considered persons of 
ti*e district. He had a daughter, once an assistant school- 
mistress, now married to Monsieur Barniol, a schoolmaster. 

Phellion's son was professor of mathematics at one of the 
royal colleges; he gave lessons and lectures and made pure 
mathematics — to use an expression of his father's — the ob- 
ject of his life. The second son was at an engineering 
school. Phellion had a pension of nine hundred francs, 
and enjoyed an income of nine thousand odd francs, the 
results of his savings and his wife's in thirty years of 
hard work and privations. In addition, he was the propri- 
etor of a little house with a garden which he occupied in 
the cul-de-sac of the Feuillantines. 

Dutocq, clerk of the court, was a former clerk in the 
Department of Finance. Sacrificed to one of those exigen- 
cies to be met with under representative government, he 
had been willing to act as a scapegoat in the case of an 
administrative scandal, and for this had been surreptitiously 



40 BALZAC'S WORKS 

rewarded with a comfortable sum; he had thus been able to 
pay for his appointment as clerk of the court. This man, 
who knew very little about honor, and was a sort of official 
spy, was not received by the Thuilliers as he believed was 
his due; nevertheless, the coldness of this landlord did not 
make him desist from his visits. 

This man, who had remained a bachelor, had his vices. 
He concealed his mode of life carefully, and by strategy 
knew how to keep in good standing with his superiors. 
The magistrate had a very good opinion of Dutocq. This 
shameful person contrived to win the toleration of the Thuil 
Hers by that base and vulgar adulation which never misses 
its effect. He knew Thuillier's life, his relations with Colle 
ville and especially with Madame Colle ville; his terrible 
tongue was fierce, and the Thuilliers, without admitting 
him to their intimacy, nevertheless felt obliged to coun- 
tenance him. The family that became the flower of the 
Thuillier circle was that of the poor humble clerk, once an 
object of pity in the office, and who, pushed by poverty, 
had left the civil service in 1827, to engage in com 
merce. 

This Minard foresaw that a fortune was to be made in 
one of those rascally schemes which discredited French 
commerce, but which in 1827 had not yet been branded 
by public opinion. He bought tea and mixed it with tea 
leaves already used. Then, he adulterated chocolate in 
such a way as to be able to sell it very cheap. This busi- 
ness in colonial produce, begun in the Saint Marcel Quar 
ter, made a considerable shopkeeper of Minard. He had 
a storeroom, and by extending his connections was able 
to buy his staples directly from the producer in the raw. 
He did the business honorably and on a large scale which 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 41 

he had begun so unscrupulously. He became a distiller, 
engaged in large transactions, and in a few years passed 
for the richest trader in the Quartier Maubert. He had 
bought one of the finest houses in the Rue Macon-Sorbonne. 
He had been deputy-mayor, and, in 1889, was made mayor 
of his district and judge in the commercial court. He had 
a carriage and an estate near Lanier; his wife wore diamonds 
at court balls, and he flaunted the rosette of an officer of the 
Legion of Honor. 

Minard and his wife were exceedingly charitable. Per- 
haps they were trying to pay back retail to the poor what 
they had stolen wholesale from the public. Phellion, Colle- 
ville and Thuillier met Minard at the elections, and an in- 
timate friendship ensued with the Thuilliers and the Colle- 
villes, Madame Zelie Minard seeming to be delighted to get 
the acquaintance of Celeste Colleville for her "young lady." 
It was at a grand ball given by the Minards that Celeste 
made her entrance into society, being then sixteen and a 
half years old, dressed as profusely as her origin suggested. 
Happy with this connection with Mademoiselle Minard, her 
senior by four years, she persuaded her godfather and her 
father to cultivate the Minard family, where, with all its 
splendors and luxuries, there were frequent gatherings of 
political celebrities. Minard' s eldest son, a barrister on 
the lookout for places of men who had got into bad odor 
through politics, was the genius of the house, and his 
mother as well as his father aspired to a fine match for 
him. Zelie Minard, formerly a flower-maker, felt an ar- 
dent passion for the high spheres of society, where she 
hoped to penetrate by the marriages of her daughter and 
her son, while Minard, wiser than herself, and imbued with 
the ideas of the middle class which the Revolution of July 



42 BALZAC'S WORKS 

had introduced to power, was thinking only of money as the 
thing to be desired. 

He haunted the Thuilliers' house for the sake of gaining 
hints on the subject of Celeste's possible inheritance. He 
knew, like Dutocq and Phellion, of the rumors once current 
about Thuillier's affair with Flavie, and he had at once 
noticed the Thuilliers' worship of their goddaughter. So 
Dutocq, in order to get admission to Minard's house, flat- 
tered him most prodigiously. When Minard, the Rothschild 
of the district, appeared at the Thuilliers', he rather cleverly 
compared him to Napoleon, when he found him stout and 
florid, after knowing him as a thin, pale, and puny clerk 
in the office: "In the Billardiere division you were like 
Napoleon before the 18th Brumaire, but now I see the Na- 
poleon of the Empire!" Minard received Dutocq coldly, 
however, and did not invite him; in consequence he made a 
mortal enemy of the malignant clerk of the court. 

Monsieur and Madame Phellion, worthy people though 
they were, could not restrain themselves from making calcu- 
lations and building up hopes. They thought that Celeste 
would be good game for their son the professor, and so, in 
order to obtain a footing in the Thuillier house, they took 
their son-in-law there, Monsieur Barniol, a man of impor- 
tance in the suburb of Saint- Jacques. The Phellions com- 
posed a phalanx of seven persons, all true to each other, and 
the Colleville family was no less numerous. So that often 
on Sundays there were thirty people in the Thuilliers' 
drawing-room. Thuillier, furthermore, made the acquaint- 
ance of the Saillards, the Baudoyers and the Falleix, 
people of substance in the Palais Royal Quarter, and whom 
they frequently invited to dinner. Madame Colleville was 
as a woman the most distinguished person of this circle, as 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 43 

Minard the son and Professor P hellion were its foremost 
men; for all the others, who were without ideas and with- 
out education, and who had sprung from an inferior rank, 
exhibited the characteristics and the absurdities of the lower 
middle class. Although all wealth acquired by devious 
ways presupposes some talent, Minard was nothing more 
than a balloon blown out. Spreading himself out in elabo- 
rate phrases, mistaking obsequiousness for politeness, and 
empty formulas for wit, he dispensed commonplaces with an 
assurance and a sonority of voice which gave them all the 
weight of real eloquence. Such words — which mean noth- 
ing and answer everything — as progress, steam, asphalt, the 
national guard, order, the elements of democracy, the spirit 
of co-operation, legality, movement, resistance, intimidation 
— such words seemed almost invented for the benefit of 
Minard, who merely paraphrased the ideas he found in his 
newspaper. Julien Minard, the young barrister, could as 
little endure his father as his father endured his wife. 
Indeed, with rising prosperity Zelie had assumed great airs, 
though without ever being able to learn* French}* she had 
grown stout, and in her flashy finery looked like a cook 
married to her master. 

Phellion, that perfect type of the lower middle* 'class, 
showed as many virtues as he did absurdities. As a subor- 
dinate during his official life he had learned to respect his 
social superior. Therefore, he observed silence in the pres- 
ence of Minard. He had acquitted himself remarkably well, 
when the usual time for superannuation came. Never had 
this worthy and excellent man been able to follow his 
tastes. He loved the city of Paris, and was interested in 
all public improvements and embellishments. He was the 
man to stop for two hours before a house being pulled 



44 BALZAC'S WORKS 

down. You might have seen him in an imposing attitude, 
nose in air, looking on at the fall of every stone loosened 
by the mason's crowbar, and without stirring from the spot 
until the stone had fallen, and when it had, he went away 
as happy as a member of the Academy would have been 
over the fall of a romantic drama. Like true supernume- 
raries in the grand social comedy, Phellion and the like of 
him fulfilled the function of the chorus in the classic age. 
When it is proper to weep they weep; they laugh when one 
ought to laugh, and sing the song of public misfortunes and 
triumphs to order, bewailing either the death of Napoleon 
or a local catastrophe in exactly the same tone, moaning the 
loss of the public men they know least off. But Phellion 
showed two faces. He was conscientiously divided between 
the opinions of the government and of the opposition. 
When there was fighting and killing in the streets, Phellion 
had the courage to speak out before his neighbors; he went 
to the Place Saint-Michel, where his battalion assembled; he 
commiserated the government and did his duty. Before 
and during the revolt he upheld the dynasty, but when the 
political trials began he turned to the side of the prisoners. 
This innocent sort of weathercock proceeding was reflected 
in his political views. His constant watchword was the 
"Giant of the North." England was to him a double- 
tongued old woman, and, on the other hand, Machiavelian 
Albion was the model country — Machiavelian when the 
interests of France and Napoleon were in question, the 
model country when mistakes of the government were 
under discussion. He acknowledged, with his newspaper, 
the preponderance of the democratic principle, and in 
conversation refused any compromise with the republican 
spirit. The republican spirit meant 1793, it meant rebellion, 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 45 

it meant the reign of terror, and the agrarian laws. The 
democratic principle sprang from the lower middle class; it 
meant the reign of Phellion. 

This excellent old man was always dignified; his dignity 
explained his life. He had brought up his children with 
dignity, he had always been the respectable father in their 
eyes, and had insisted on respect at home, as he himself 
respected authority and his superiors. He had never been 
in debt. As a juryman, his conscience made him sweat 
blood and water in following the debates on a trial, and he 
never laughed, not even when the court and the audience 
and all the authorities laughed. Eminently obliging, he 
was generous with solicitude, time, everything, in fact, but 
money. Felix Phellion, his son the professor, was his idol; 
he believed him capable of reaching a chair in the Academy 
of Science. Between the audacious nonentity of Minard and 
the frank imbecility of Phellion, Thuillier was like a neu- 
tral substance, but he partook of the qualities of both, 
owing to his melancholy experience. He glossed over his 
stupidity by vapid phrases, just as his yellow skull was con- 
cealed by the strings of gray hair most artistically brought 
from the back of his head to the front by the hairdresser's 
comb. 

"In any other career," said he when speaking of the 
civil service, "I should have done very much better." 

He had seen what could be done in theory and what in 
practice was impossible; he had seen results which had 
contradicted the premises. He discussed the unfairness and 
the intrigues of the higher officials, and of course the affair 
Rabourdin. 

"After that one may believe anything and believe noth- 
ing," said he. 'Yes, government is a singular thing, and 



46 BALZAC'S WORKS 

I am glad that I have no son, who might enter the race for 
a place." 

Colleville, always lively, a fat and thoroughly good fel- 
low, cracking jokes, making up his anagrams, always busy, 
represented the typical hard-working gossip of the middle 
class. And that meant capacity without success, honest toil 
unrequited; but it also meant smiling resignation, an insig- 
nificant mind and an art without purpose, for he was an 
excellent musician, and now only played for his daughter. 
So this drawing-room was a species of provincial social 
academy, but lighted up by the glare of Parisian life. 
The fashionable phrases and fancies of Paris arrived there 
on the rebound. Minard was always awaited there with 
impatience, for he was supposed to know the facts of the 
great world. The women in the Thuillier circle were for 
the Jesuits; the men defended the University; but as a 
rule the women listened. A man of intelligence, could he 
have endured the tedium of these evening parties, would 
have laughed as much as at a play by Moliere on being 
informed of such facts as these: Could the Revolution of 
1789 have been avoided ? The extravagance of Louis 
XIV. paved the way for it. Louis XV. was an egoist with 
a mania for ceremonial. He said, "If I were chief of police 
I would prohibit cabriolets." He was a dissolute king. 
Strangers have always been hostile to France. Louis XVI. 
would have been acquitted by a jury. What caused the 
fall of Charles X 'i Napoleon is a great man, and there 
are anecdotes which prove that he is a genius. He was in 
the habit of taking five pinches of snuff per minute from 
pockets lined with leather in his waistcoat. He settled all 
his tradesmen's accounts. He had Talma for a friend; 
Talma taught him his gestures, and nevertheless he al- 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 47 

ways refused to give Talma a medal. The Emperor took 
a sentinel's place who had gone to sleep to prevent him 
from being shot. The soldiers worshipped him for things 
like that. Louis XVIII., who was a clever man, was unfair 
to him when he called him Monsieur de Bonaparte. The 
chief fault of the present government is that it is following 
instead of leading. It has placed itself on a low plane. It 
wants men of action; it ought to have drawn up the treaties 
of 1815 and asked Europe for the .Rhine. The same men 
get into the ministry too often. 

If all the preceding facts and all these generalities had 
not been put into the framework of our drama— with the 
object, as will have been seen, of showing the spirit of 
these people — perhaps the drama would have suffered by 
it. This sketch, moreover, is quite true to history, and 
depicts a social stratum of some importance, especially 
when it is considered that the newer politicians have found 
in it their main support. 

The winter of the year 1839 was, in a way, the season 
of the Thuilliers' greatest glory. The Minards went there 
nearly every Sunday. They began by spending an hour 
there on their way to other entertainments, and very often 
Minard left his wife there, going on with his daughter and 
his oldest son, the barrister. This civility of the Minards 
was occasioned by the meeting between Metivier, Burbet, 
and Minard, at a gathering where these two important ten- 
ants stayed a little later than usual to gossip with Mad- 
emoiselle Thuillier. Minard learned from Barbet that the 
old maid was taking about thirty thousand francs in 
securities from him at six months' date in consideration 
of seven and a half per cent per annum, and that she 
took an equal amount from Metivier, so that she must 



48 BALZAO'S WORKS 

have at least a hundred and eighty thousand francs to 
dispose of. 

"I lend money on books at twelve per cent, and accept 
none but prime securities. Nothing is easier and more 
profitable," said Barbet. "I say that she has one hundred 
and eighty thousand francs, for the bank will not take her 
bills, excepting at ninety days." 

"So she has an account at the bank," said Minard. 

-.'I think so," said Barbet. 

Minard, in some way connected with one of the regents 
of the bank, learned that Mademoiselle Thuillier had 
actually an account there of two hundred thousand francs 
guaranteed by a deposit of forty shares. This guarantee, 
however, was supposed to be superfluous. The bank was 
inclined to make allowances for persons so well known to 
it, and one who had the management of Celeste Lemprun's 
affairs, the daughter of a messenger who had been in the 
service of the bank from its very beginning. Mademoiselle 
Thuillier had never in the course of twenty years gone 
beyond the limit of her deposit. She always sent sixty 
thousand francs, drawn at three months, once a month, 
which made about one hundred and sixty thousand francs. 
The shares deposited amounted to one hundred and twenty 
thousand francs, so that there was no risk whatever, be- 
cause the bills were always worth a full sixty thousand 
francs. "So that," said the bank auditor, "if she were to 
send us a hundred thousand francs in notes, we should not 
reject one. She has a house which is not mortgaged, and 
it is worth over a hundred thousand francs. Besides, all 
this paper comes from Barbet and Metivier, and carries 
four signatures, her own included." 

"Why does Mademoiselle Thuillier work so hard," 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 49 

asked Minard of Metivier. "I should think she would 
suit jour fancy,' 1 he added. 

"Oh, as for me," answered Metivier, "I can do better by 
marrying one of my cousins. My uncle Metivier has told 
me all about his affairs. He has an income of one hundred 
thousand francs and only two daughters." 

However secretive Mademoiselle Thuillier might have 
been, and however little she said about her investments, 
not even confiding in her brother, it was not to be supposed 
that some facts did not finally leak out as to the amount 
of her fortune. 

Dutocq, who was making up to Barbet, and whom he 
resembled somewhat in character and physiognomy, had 
estimated more correctly than Minard the savings of the 
Thuilliers, when he put them at one hundred and fifty 
thousand francs in 1838, and by dint of the information 
derived from the wily bill discounter, Barbet followed the 
increase of their fortune. 

"Celeste will have two hundred thousand francs in cash 
from us," the old maid had said in confidence to Barbet, 
"and Madame Thuillier proposes to make over to her the 
absolute ownership of her property in the marriage contract. 
As for me, my will is made. My brother will have every- 
thing for his lifetime, and Celeste will be my heir with that 
single reservation. Monsieur Cardot, my notary, is my 
testamentary executor." About that time Mademoiselle 
Thuillier had urged her brother to renew his former con- 
nection with the Saillards, the Baudoyers, and les Falleix, 
whose position was analogous to that of the Thuilliers and 
the Minards in the Saint- Antoine Quarter, where M. Sail- 
lard was mayor. Cardot, the notary, had brought forward 
his client in the person of Maitre Godeschal, an attorney, 

(0— Vol. IG 



50 BALZAC'S WORKS 

aged thirty-six, Derville's successor, and an able man who 
had paid one hundred thousand francs for an interest in the 
firm, and who made pretensions for a dowry of two hundred 
thousand francs. Minard got rid of Godeschal by informing 
Mademoiselle Thuillier that Celeste would have as a sister- 
in-law the famous dancer Mariette of the Opera. 

"She has withdrawn," said Colleville, alluding to his 
wife, "and she will not try again." 

"Monsieur Godeschal is too old for Celeste, in any 
case," said Brigitte. 

"And the child," timidly added Madame Thuillier, 
"ought we not to allow her to marry according to her own 
taste and to seek her own happiness?" 

The poor woman had observed that Felix Phellion had 
conceived a real affection for Celeste, the sort of love that 
warmly appealed to a woman crushed by Brigitte and 
wounded by Thuillier's indifference, who had taken less 
notice of his wife than if she had been his servant. At 
twenty-three, Felix Phellion was a gentle, frank young 
man, like all students who pursue knowledge for its own 
sake. He had been scrupulously brought up by his father, 
who, taking everything seriously, had given him none but 
good examples, accompanying them with trite maxims. He 
was a young man of medium height, fair hair, gray eyes, 
freckled complexion, a very agreeable voice and quiet 
deportment. His gestures were few. He was a dreamer, 
spoke very sensibly, never contradicted any one, and, above 
all, was incapable of sordid thoughts or selfish calculation. 

"There," had Madame Thuillier often said to herself, 
"that is the sort of husband I should have liked!" 

About the beginning of 1840, the Thuilliers' social circle 
embraced the various personages whom we have just been 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 51 

sketching. Barbet and Metivier, who each wanted to ask 
Mademoiselle Brigitte for thirty thousand francs, were 
playing whist with Messieurs Minard and Phellion. At 
another table were Julien the Lawyer, as Colleville called 
young Minard, Madame Colleville, Monsieur Barniol, and 
Madame Phellion. A game of bouillotte at live sou points 
was taking up the attention of Madame Minard, whom you 
will hear of again, of Colleville, of old father Saillard, and 
Baudoyer, his son-in-law. Leudigeois and Dutocq were just 
arriving. The ladies Falleix, Baudoyer, and Barniol, and 
Mademoiselle Minard, made up a set of boston, Celeste 
sitting behind Prudence Minard. Young Phellion was lis- 
tening to Madame Thuillier, but looking at Celeste. In 
another part of the room, the Queen Elizabeth of the family 
sat enthroned in an armchair, as simply clad as she had been 
for thirty years, for no height in prosperity would have 
induced her to change her habits of dress. On her gray 
hair she was wearing a black cap of gauze with geraniums. 
Her skirt of raisin-colored veiling cost fifteen francs. Her 
embroidered collar, worth six francs, hardly concealed the 
furrows in her neck. Monvel playing at Caesar Augustus 
in his old days did not exhibit a sterner face than that of 
the autocrat knitting socks for her brother. Thuillier was 
standing up before the fire, ready to receive the guests, and 
near him was standing a young man whose appearance had 
made a great stir, when the porter — who on Sundays put on 
his best coat to act as butler — announced Monsieur Olivier 
Vinet. Olivier Vinet had just been transferred from the 
Court of d'Arcis-sur-Aube to the Court of the Seine as 
deputy prosecutor. The notary Cardot had had Thuillier 
to dine with him, and the public prosecutor, who had the 
prospect of becoming Minister of Justice. Cardot estimated 



52 BALZAC'S WORKS 

the sum that would fall to Celeste at seven hundred thou- 
sand francs at the lowest. Vinet the son seemed charmed 
with the privilege of going to see the Thuilliers on Sunday. 
Large dowries inspire people to commit great and unblush- 
ing follies nowadays. 

Ten minutes after, another young man, who was talking 
with Thuillier, before the deputy's arrival, lifted up his 
voice in the heat of a political discussion, and obliged the 
lawyer to follow his example by the energy he threw into 
the debate. The matter in question was the vote by which 
the Chamber of Deputies had just overturned the Ministry 
of May 12, by rejecting the grant asked for the Duke of 
Nemours. 

"Certainly," said the young man, "I am far from shar- 
ing the dynastic view, and I am also far from approving of 
the accession to power of the middle classes. The middle 
class must not now, any more than the aristocracy once did, 
assume to be the whole State, but here you see the French 
middle classes have taken upon themselves to set up a new 
dynasty, a monarchy all to themselves, and this is how they 
treat it! When the French people allowed Napoleon to 
take the reins, they created through him something mag- 
nificent and monumental. They were proud of his great- 
ness and they generously gave their blood and the sweat of 
their bodies to build up the edifice of the Empire! But the 
middle classes, between the aristocracy and the masses, are 
mean and sordid, and debased the name of authority to their 
own level, instead of rising to it. They practiced the cheese- 
paring economy of their shops on their Princes. What is 
virtue with them is a fault or a crime up above. I have 
a kindly feeling for the people, but I would not have cut 
down the new civil list by ten millions. Coming into almost 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 53 

supreme power in Prance, the middle class is responsible for 
the welfare of the people, for dignified splendor without 
extravagance, and for greatness without privileges." 

Olivier Vmet's father was just then in a mood of disap- 
proval concerning authority, the cloak of guardian of the 
seals — his dearest dream — having not yet fallen upon his 
shoulder. The young deputy prosecutor, therefore, did 
not know what to answer, and he judged it best to devote 
himself to one side of the question. 

"You are right, Monsieur," said Olivier Vinet, "but be- 
fore showing themselves off, the middle classes have duties 
to answer for to France. The luxury that you speak of 
comes after those duties. What seems to you so reprehen- 
sible was imperative at the moment. The Chamber is far 
from being implicated; the ministers belong less to France 
than to the crown, and Parliament wanted a Ministry, like 
that in England, which lived by its own strength and not on 
borrowed influence. The day when the Ministry shall act 
on its own account and represent the executive power in the 
Chamber as the Chamber represents the country, Parliament 
will be very liberal to the Crow"n. It is upon this that the 
question hinges, and I say so without expressing an opinion, 
since my official duties impose upon me a sort of loyalty to 
the Crown, as far as polities are concerned." 

"Aside from the political question," replied the young 
man whose voice and action betrayed a son of Provence, "it 
is none the less true that the middle class has misunderstood 
its mission. We see public; prosecutors, first presidents of 
the courts, and peers of France riding in omnibuses, judges 
who live on their salaries, prefects without private resources, 
ministers in debt. Meanwhile, the middle class coming into 
control of these places ought to do honor to them as the 



54 BALZAC'S WORKS 

aristocracy did, and instead of holding them for the purpose 
of making money, as recent scandalous trials have dem- 
onstrated, ought to fill them without regard to personal 
expense." 

"Who is this young man?" Olivier Vinet asked himself 
as he listened. "Is he a relative? Cardot ought certainly 
to have come with me here for the first time." 

"Who is the little man ?" Minard asked Barbet. "This 
is not the first time he is here. 

"He is a tenant," answered Metivier, who was dealing 
cards. 

"A barrister," said Barbet in a low voice. "He occu- 
pies a little apartment on the third floor in the front. Oh, 
he is not much of a fellow, and he has no money." 

"What is that young man's name?" said Olivier Vinet 
to Monsieur Thuillier. 

"Th^odose de la Peyrade, he is a barrister," whispered 
Monsieur Thuillier into the deputy's ear. At this moment 
the women as well as the men were scrutinizing the two 
young men, and Madame Minard could not refrain from 
saying to Colleville — "He is very young, that young 
man is." 

"I have been making his anagram," answered Celeste's 
father, "and his name gives a prophecy which may be inter- 
preted thus: " 'My dear Mother Minard, beware of giving 
him your daughter.' " 

'That young man is thought more of than my son," said 
Madame Phellion to Madame Colleville; "what do you 
think of him?" 

"Oh, as far as Alfred's appearance goes," answered Ma- 
dame Colleville, "a woman might hesitate before making a 
different choice." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 55 

Young Vinet thought lie could now do something ex- 
ceedingly clever, as he cast a glauce over this middle class 
group, by praising up the middle classes. And so he sided 
with the young Provengal barrister, opining that the people 
honored with places by the government ought to imitate the 
King, whose splendid style by far surpassed that of the old 
court, and that to make economies from one's emoluments 
was sheer stupidity. Was it possible, anyhow, especially 
in Paris, where living expenses had tripled, where an apart- 
ment fit for a judge cost three thousand francs? 

"My father," said he in conclusion, "gives me a thou- 
sand crowns a year, and it is all I can do to live according 
to my official station with the aid of my salary." 

As the deputy was cantering along this dangerous road, 
the Provengal, who had slyly led him on to it, was surrep- 
titiously exchanging a glance with Dutocq, just about to 
take a hand in a game of bouillotte. 

"And there are so many places being sought for," said 
the clerk of the court, "that there is a probability of two 
more magistrates being appointed for each district, so 
that we may have twelve more courts. ' ' 

"I have never yet had the pleasure of hearing you 
plead," said the deputy to Monsieur de la Peyrade. 

"I am an advocate for poor people, and only plead before 
magistrates," answered the Provengal. 

While listening to the young lawyer's argument upon 
the necessity of spending one's income, Mademoiselle Thuil- 
licv had put on an air of ceremony, the meaning of which 
was quite well understood both by the young Provengal and 
Vinet. Young Vinet left with Minard, and Julien with the 
barrister, so that the possession of the field before the lire- 
place remained to young la Peyrade and Dutocq. 



56 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"The upper middle class," said Dutocq to Thuillier, 
"must behave as the aristocracy formerly did. The nobil- 
ity wanted golden girls to maintain their estates, and our 
upstarts of to-day want large marriage portions to stuff 
their own pockets with." 

"That is what Monsieur Thuillier told me this morning," 
answered the Provencal unabashed. 

"Vinet's father," answered Dutocq, "married Mademoi- 
selle de Chargebceuf, and assumed aristocratic opinions. 
He insists on money at any cost; his wife lived in royal 
style." 

"Oh," said Thuillier with the envy of middle class peo- 
ple of each other, "turn those people out of their places and 
they will soon fall again to what, they rose from." 

Mademoiselle Thuillier was knitting at such speed that 
you would have thought that she was being driven by a 
steam engine. Madame Colleville was quietly examining 
the Provencal, comparing him with young Phellion, who 
was chatting with Celeste, without taking note of the 
conversation of the rest. 

This is the proper moment to depict the strange person- 
age who was to play such a significant part in the life of the 
Thuilliers, and who undoubtedly merits the distinction of 
being called a great artist. There is in Provence, and espe- 
cially a part of Avignon, a race of men with fair or chestnut 
hair, soft complexion, and almost tender eyes, whose expres- 
sion is rather mild, and calm or languorous, than lively, ar- 
dent, or deep, as is so often the case with the southerners. 
Let us observe in passing that among the Corsicans, people 
of violent and irascible natures, these fair men of appar- 
ent passiveness are frequently to be met with. And the 
worst kind of Provengals are precisely these pale types, 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 57 

rather stout and with the somewhat watery eyes, which may 
be blue or greenish. Charles-Marie-Theodose de la Peyrade 
was a fair specimen of this race, whose constitution would 
deserve a minute investigation by medical science and phil- 
osophical physiology. There is always stirring within them 
a kind of bile, an acrid humor, which easily carries them 
away, rendering them capable of great ferocity, though to 
outward appearances they are cold. The result of a species 
of mental intoxication, this sort of fierceness is irreconcilable 
with their placid exterior and the tranquillity of their benign 
expression. 

Born in the neighborhood of Avignon, the young Pro- 
vencal, whose name we have just given, was of medium 
height, well proportioned, almost stout, with a complexion 
that was neither livid, nor pale, nor highly colored, but like 
gelatine, so to speak. His pale blue eyes ordinarily ex- 
pressed a deceptive melancholy, which was of course a great 
charm in the sight of women. His well-chiselled forehead 
was not wanting in nobility, and harmonized with a fine 
head of light chestnut hair, which naturally curled at the 
ends, but very lightly. His nose, exactly like a sporting 
dog's, was broad, cleft at the end, intelligent, and inquisi- 
tive; but instead of lending him an appearance of good na- 
ture, the nose indicated the characteristic of mocking irony. 
But these phases of his nature were not very apparent, and 
the young man must have been thrown off his guard and 
given way to temper in order to vent the full satirical wit 
that poisoned his horrible jests. His mouth, cut in an 
agreeable curve, with lips as red as a pomegranate, was 
the instrument of a voice most suave in its middle notes, 
to which Theodose accordingly gave the preference in 
speaking; his higher notes vibrated to the ear like the 



58 BALZAC'S WORKS 

sound of a gong. His falsetto was truly the voice of his 
nerves and of his wrath. His face was oval in shape, and 
his manner, harmonizing with the clerical calm of his fea- 
tures, was all reserve and propriety. At the same time 
there was a smoothness in his demeanor, which without de- 
scending to servility had something of the seductive in it, 
but which was quite forgotten with his departure. A charm 
which has its source iu the heart makes a profound impres- 
sion; when it is only a product of art, like eloquence for 
instance, its triumphs are but evanescent; it will pay any 
price for effect. But in this life how many philosophers are 
there capable of setting up right comparisons ? Almost al- 
ways, to use a popular phrase, the trick is done by the time 
ordinary people have found its explanation. 

With this young man of twenty-seven, everything har- 
monized with his real character. He followed his vocation 
in cultivating philanthropy, the only way in which philan- 
thropy can be accounted for. Theodose loved the people 
because he made capital out of his love of humanity. 
In the same way that gardeners cultivate roses, dahlias, 
pansies, or geraniums, and pay no attention to the species 
outside the pale of their particular election, did this young 
man give himself up to the masses, the working classes, to 
the squalor of the suburbs of Saint- Jacques and Saint-Mar- 
ceau. Men of capacity, neglected geniuses, the respectable 
poor of the middle classes — these he excluded from the 
bosom of his charity. Assuredly, vanity is the foundation 
of philanthropy, but, in the case of the Provencal it was cal- 
culation, a part he was playing. Liberality and democratic 
sentiments he pretended with a perfection that no actor could 
have equalled. He did not attack the rich, but was satisfied 
with not understanding them; every one according to him 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 59 

should enjoy the fruits of his labor. He had been, he said, 
a fervent disciple of Saint-Simon, but wished this error to 
be attributed to his extreme youth. Modern society could 
have no basis but that of heredity. An ardent Catholic, 
like all the natives of his province, he went to Mass early, 
and made a secret of his piety. Like almost all philanthro- 
pists, he practiced a most sordid economy, and gave to the 
poor his time, his advice, his eloquence, and the money 
which he contrived to wring from the rich for them. He 
wore boots, and dressed in black cloth, which he wore until 
the seams were white. Nature had done much for Theodose 
in not bestowing upon him that masculine southern beauty 
which in other parts of the world leads to imaginary de- 
mands that a man has more than difficulty in answering to. 
It was little trouble to him to please, so that he could at his 
own choice be thought a very agreeable or a very ordinary 
person. Never since his admission to the Thuilliers' circle 
had he ventured, as he had this evening, to raise his voice 
and assert himself squarely enough to risk a breach with 
Olivier Vinet. But perhaps Theodose was not displeased 
at coming out of the shade to which he had hitherto always 
kept. And then it was of course desirable to get rid of the 
young lawyer, just as the Minards had previously ruined 
Godeschal. Like all superior minds — for he was not lacking 
in elevation of thought — the deputy had not lowered him- 
self far enough to see the threads of these middle-class spi- 
ders' webs, and was now rushing head first into the almost 
invisible trap into which Theodose had drawn him with 
such guile as cleverer men than Olivier might have suc- 
cumbed to. To complete the picture of this poor people's 
advocate, it may not be inexpedient to say something about 
his first acquaintance with the Thuilliers. 



60 BALZAC'S WORKS 

Theodose had appeared in public about the end of the 
rear 1837. He had then been practicing law for about five 
years, having entered the Paris bar. But untoward circum- 
stances, regarding which he observed silence, had prevented 
him from enrolment among the regular pleaders of Paris, 
and he was therefore still a probationer. But once estab- 
lished in his little third-story apartment, with only such 
furniture as was absolutely necessary to his noble profes- 
sion — for the order of barristers will not recognize a new 
colleague who does not own a proper study and library, 
their existence to be duly verified on the spot — Theodose 
de la Peyrade became a pleader at the Assize Court in Paris. 

The whole of the year 1838 he devoted to effecting this 
change of position, and he led the most regular life. In the 
morning he studied until dinner time, occasionally going to 
court for important cases. Having gained a connection with 
Dutocq — which according to Dutocq was a very difficult 
matter — he pleaded for several of the paupers of the Saint- 
Jacques suburb, whose names had been given him by the 
clerk of the court, and as he took none but very sure cases, 
he won them all. In this way entering into relationship 
with other legal officials, he became known at the bar for 
his worthy character, and thus a certain amount of credit 
accrued to him upon his admission to the society of barris- 
ters, and afterward at his acceptance as a member of the bar. 
He then became advocate of the poor before magistrates and 
continued to champion the rights of the people. The cli- 
ents of Theodose expressed their gratitude and admiration 
for him to the porters, in spite of the young barrister's in- 
junction, and many of these reports reached the ears of his 
landlord. Charmed at the idea of receiving a man of such 
high reputation and charity, the Thuilliers desired him to 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 61 

enter their circle, and asked Dutocq for information about 
him. The clerk of the court spoke of him as jealous people 
are in the habit of doing, and, while giving the young man 
his due, took occasion to remark that he was extraordinarily 
avaricious, which was probably the reason of his poverty. 
Said he: "I have made inquiries about him. He belongs 
to the la Peyrades, an old Avignon family. He came here 
about the end of 1829 in search of an uncle, supposed to be 
very well off, whose house he discovered three days after 
his death, and the effects of the deceased were just sufficient 
t© pay his burial and his debts. A friend of this superflu- 
ous uncle put a hundred louis into our fortune-hunter's 
hands, on the understanding that he would study law and 
pursue that career. With those hundred louis he defrayed 
his expenses in Paris for three years, during which he lived 
like a hermit, but being unable to find his unknown patron 
again, the poor student was in great distress for a time in 
1833. 

"Like all licentiates, he did something in politics and 
literature, and for some time managed to keep on the right 
side of poverty, for he had no expectations as far as his 
family was concerned. His father has a herd of eleven 
children, all living on a very small estate. He finally be- 
came attached to the staff of a ministerial newspaper under 
the management of the famous Cerizet, noted for the perse- 
cutions he underwent, at the time of the Kestoration, for his 
devotion to the Liberals, and whom the adherents of the 
new Left refused to forgive for being the defender of the 
ministry. As to-day the authorities do very little for their 
most loyal servants, the Kepublicans at last contrived to 
ruin Cerizet. I mention this to explain how Cerizet hap- 
pens to be a copyist in my oilice. 



62 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"Well, then, about the time when he flourished as the 
editor of a paper which, as the mouthpiece of the Perier 
ministry, answered the incendiary journals, Cerizet, who 
after all is a very good fellow, but a little too fond of 
women and good food and dissipation, was very useful to 
Theodose, who was writing political articles, and if Casimir 
Perier had not died, the young man would no doubt have 
been made a deputy judge in Paris. But in 1834 and 1835, 
he found himself in bad circumstances again, in spite of 
his ability, for his activity on the staff of the ministerial 
newspaper had done him harm. Had it not been for his 
religious principles, he told me, he would have jumped 
into the Seine. It appears that his uncle's friend knew him 
to be in distress, and that he sent him enough to take his 
barrister's degree; but he is still ignorant of the name and 
residence of his mysterious patron. In these circumstances, 
after all, his economy is excusable, and he certainly has a 
great deal of character to refuse what the poor devils offer 
him whose cases he wins. It is a miserable thing to see 
people speculating on the incapacity of these unfortunates 
to advance money for a suit unjustly brought against them. 
Oh, he will undoubtedly succeed! I would not be surprised 
to see that young fellow in a very fine position ; he has per- 
severance, integrity, and courage! He studies hard; he is 
a plodder!" 

In spite of the cordiality with which they had received 
him, Peyrade went to the Thuilliers at rare intervals at first. 
But as they complained of his reserve, his visits became 
more frequent, and he finally went every Sunday, was asked 
to all their dinners, and became so intimate with them that, 
if he happened to be with Thuillier at four o'clock, they 
made him stay to dinner and take "pot luck." Mademoi- 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 63 

selle Thuillier used to say to herself: "Then we can be 
sure that he will have a good dinner, poor young man!" 

A social phenomenon which has not yet been formulated 
or published, though it deserves to be, is their return to the 
habits, modes of thought, and manners of their original 
state of certain people, who in the interval between youth 
and old age have risen to a higher stratum of society. Thus 
Thuillier had relapsed, morally speaking, to the porter's 
son. He quoted several of his father's jokes, and allowed 
glimpses to be seen in his declining days of his low birth. 

About five or six times a month, when the greasy soup 
was good, he said, as though he was making an entirely 
new remark, as he put his spoon back into his empty 
plate: "That is better than a kick!" Hearing this joke for 
the first time, Theodose, to whom it was new, lost his 
gravity, and laughed so heartily that Thuillier, handsome 
Thuillier, was tickled in his vanity as he had never been 
before. Ever afterward, Thdodose met this phrase with a 
knowing little smile. This slight detail will explain how, 
the same morning of the evening on which Theodose had 
his encounter with the young deputy, he had found himself 
in a position to say to Thuillier, as they walked in the 
garden to see what effect the frost had had, "You are a 
great deal wittier than you think." 

The answer he received was this — "In any other career, 
my dear Theodose, I should have done great things, but the 
Emperor's fall broke my neck." 

"There is always time enough," the young barrister had 
said. "What on earth did that mountebank of a Colleville 
do to get the Cross of the Legion?" 

There, Maitre de la Peyrade had touched the sore which 
Thuillier hid from all eyes so effectually that even his sister 



64 BALZAC'S WORKS 

did not know of it. But the young man, whose specialty 
was the study of all these middle-class folk, had penetrated 
the secret envy eating at the heart of the ex-assistant chief. 

"If you will honor me, you who are so experienced, by 
being guided by my advice," the philanthropist had added, 
"and will on no account ever mention our compact to any- 
body without my consent, not even to your amiable sister, 
I will undertake to get you the Cross with the approval of 
the whole precinct." 

"Oh, if we only succeed," Thuillier had exclaimed, 
"you do not know what I will do for you." 

This explains why Thuillier had puffed himself out so 
formidably when Theodose had had the audacity to lend 
him opinions. 

In the arts there is a degree of perfection above talent 
that is only reach by genius. There is so little difference 
between the work of genius and the work of talent that men- 
of genius only can appreciate the distance between Kafael 
and Correggio, or between Titian and Rubens. More than 
that, the vulgar are deceived because the stamp of genius 
is always an appearance of facility. The work of genius, 
in a word, looks ordinary at the first glance, such is its 
naturalness, even when dealing with the loftiest subjects. 
Many peasant women hold their children as the famous 
Madonna of Dresden holds hers. Well, then, the height 
of art in a man of Theodose's calibre is to have it said of 
him: "He would have deceived any one!" Now in the 
Thuillier circle he saw an evident contradiction; he dis- 
cerned in Colleville clear judgment, the critical faculty of 
the artist who has failed. The barrister knew that he stood 
in the bad graces of Colleville, who, by reason of circum- 
stances already mentioned, was a reputed believer in the 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 65 

science of anagrams. And none of his anagrams ever 
failed. He had been made fun of in the government's 
offices when, being asked for the anagram of poor Jean- 
Francois Minard, he had given the solution: "I amassed 
such a great fortune." Ten years after, events justified the 
anagram. Now, the anagram pertaining to Theodose was 
fatal. His (Colleville's) wife made him quake, and he 
had never made it known, for Flavie Minard Colleville pro- 
duced: "Old woman Colleville, a tarnished name, steals." 

Theodose had already more than once during the even- 
ing made advances to the jovial municipal secretary, and 
he had felt repelled by a coolness scarcely natural in such 
a communicative person. After the game of bouillotte, 
Colleville drew Tkuillier into the embrasure of a window, 
and said to him — "You are allowing that barrister too much 
of a footing here; he led the conversation this evening. " 

"Thank you, my friend, forewarned is forearmed," 
answered Thuillier, inwardly scoffing at Colleville. 

Theodose, who was at this moment chatting with Madame 
Colleville, had an eye on the two friends, and by the same 
instinct that tells women what others are saying about them 
across the room he guessed that Colleville was trying to 
injure him in the opinion of that weak and silly Thuillier. 

"Madame," said he in the ear of the pious lady, "be- 
lieve me that if any one here is capable of understanding 
you, I am. It is enough to see you, to say that you are a 
pearl dropped into the mud. You are not yet forty-two — 
for a woman is never older than she looks — and many 
women of thirty who are your inferior would be glad of 
your figure, and of that beautiful face which love has 
passed over without ever filling the void in your heart. 
You have dedicated your life to the service of God, I 



66 BALZAC'S WORKS 

know, and I am too God-fearing to wish to be anything 
but a friend to you; but you gave yourself up to him 
because you had found no one worthy of you. In fact, 
though you have been loved, you never have been wor- 
shipped, of that I am sure. Your husband, who has not 
given you a position worthy of your high character, dis- 
likes me, as if he suspected me of being in love with you, 
and prevents me from telling you that I think I have dis- 
covered the way to put you into the sphere for which you 
were intended. No, Madame," said he aloud, "not the 
Abbe Gondrin is to preach the Lenten sermons at our 
little church this year, but Monsieur d'Bstival, one of my 
countrymen, who has devoted himself to preaching in the 
interests of the poor people, and in him you will hear one 
of the sincerest preachers I know, a man of unpleasaut 
appearance, but such a soul!" 

"Then my wish will be granted," said poor Madame 
Thuillier. "I have never been able to understand those 
famous preachers." 

A smile flitted on the lips of Mademoiselle Thuillier, 
and of several other people's. 

"They are too much taken up with theological argu 
ments; I have long thought that," said Theodose. "But 
I never discuss religion, and were it not for Madame de 
Colleville— " 

"So there are arguments in theology?" asked the pro- 
fessor of mathematics innocently and pointblank. 

"I do not think, Monsieur," answered Theodose, look 
ing at Felix Phellion, "that you are asking that question 
seriously." 

"Felix," said old Phellion, lumbering up to the support 
of his son, and catching a painful look on Madame Thuil- 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 67 

lier's pale face — "Felix divides religion into two categories; 
he looks at it from the human and from the divine points of 
view; he considers tradition and common-sense.'' 

"What heresy. Monsieur!" answered Theodose. "Re- 
ligion cannot be divided; she insists on faith before every- 
thing!" 

Old Phellion, nailed down by this objection, looked at 
his wife — "It is time, my dear," said he, looking at the 
clock. 

"Oh, Monsieur Felix," said Celeste into the candid 
mathematician's ear, "why should you not be scientific 
and religious at the same time, like Pascal and Bossuet?" 

The Phellions, starting for home, set the Collevilles an 
example, so that soon no one was left but Dutocq, Theo- 
dose and the Thuilliers. 

The flatteries addressed to Flavie by Theodose were 
quite commonplace, but it must be observed for the com- 
prehension of this story that the barrister tuned himself to 
the pitch of these vulgar minds; he navigated in their 
waters; he talked their language; his favorite thinker was 
Pierre Grassou, and not Joseph Bridau, the book of his 
heart was "Paul et Virginie." To him the greatest con- 
temporary poet was Casimir Delavigne. In his opinion the 
highest mission of art was usefulness. According to him, 
Parmentier was worth thirty Rafaels; the man in the blue 
coat of the great Sistine picture looked to him like a sister 
of charity. These sentiments of Thuillier he sometimes 
remembered. 

"That young Phellion," said he, "is the typical univer- 
sity man of our time, the product of science, which has 
pensioned the Almighty. Good heavens, what are we 
coming to? Nothing but religion can save France, for it 



68 BALZAC'S WORKS 

is nothing but the fear of hell that can preserve us from 
the transgressions going on in the bosom of every family!" 

Upon this brilliant tirade, which profoundly impressed 
Brigitte, he withdrew, followed by Dutocq, after wishing 
the three Thuilliers good-night. 

"That is a young man of resource!" said Thuillier 
sententiously. 

"Yes, to be sure he is," answered Brigitte, as she blew 
out the lights. 

"He seems to be religious," said Madame Thuillier, 
who left the room first. 

"Monsieur," said Phellion to Colleville, as they passed 
the School of Mines, when he had made sure of there being 
no one in earshot, "it is fully within my habits to defer to 
the lights of my betters, but I cannot help thinking that 
the young barrister lorded it rather over our friends the 
Thuilliers." 

"As for me," replied Colleville, who was walking with 
Phellion behind his wife, Celeste, and Madame Phellion, "I 
believe he is a Jesuit, and I do not like those people. The 
best of them are good for nothing. To my mind the Jesuit 
is a rascal. He is a rascal for the pleasure of being one. 
That is my opinion, and I will not take it back." 

"I understand you, Monsieur," answered Phellion, who 
took Colleville's arm. 

"No, Monsieur Phellion," remarked Flavie in a squeaky 
voice, "you do not understand Colleville, but I know very, 
well what he means, and you will do best to say no more. 
Such subjects ought not to be discussed in the streets at 
eleven o'clock at night before a young girl." 
'You are right, little wife." said Colleville. 

On reaching the Eue Deux Eglises, where Phellion was 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 69 

to turn down, there were general good-nights. Felix P hel- 
lion said to Colleville — "Your son Francois might enter the 
Polytechnique School, if he were pushed. I offer myself 
to prepare him for the examinations this year. ' ' 

"That is hardly to be refused. Thank you, my friend!" 
said Colleville, "we must see about that." 

"That is a good idea!" said Phellion to his son. 

"Yes, it is not bad!" exclaimed his mother. 

"What do you mean?" asked Felix. 

"Why, it is a clever way of paying court to Celeste's 
parents." 

"May I never solve my great problem, if I ever thought 
of such thing!" cried the young professor. "I simply found 
out in talking with the little Collevilles that Francois has 
a taste for mathematics, and I thought I ought to make a 
suggestion to his father — " 

"That is right, my son!" said Phellion. "I would not 
have you otherwise. My wishes are fulfilled; I see in my 
son integrity, honor, and all the civic and private virtues 
that I could wish for." 

Madame Colleville, after Celeste had gone to bed, said 
to her husband, "Colleville, you ought not to pronounce 
opinions so flatly about people without knowing them 
thoroughly. When you say Jesuits, I know that you are 
thinking of the priesthood, and I wish you would favor me 
with keeping your views of religion to yourself when you 
are in your daughter's presence. We are the masters of 
our own souls, but not of our children's. Would you like 
to see your daughter without religion ? Now, my dear, we 
are at the world's mercy. We have four children to pro- 
vide for, and how do you know but what at one time or 
another we may not want the assistance of this person or 



70 BALZAC'S WORKS 

that? So do not make enemies. You have none now as 
you are a good sort of fellow, and thanks to that quality 
in you, which is really quite charming, we have managed 
to get on in life fairly well!" 

"Stop," said Colleville, throwing his coat on the chair 
and taking off his necktie, "I am wrong and you are right, 
my lovely Flavie." 

"At your first opportunity, my dear boy," said the cun- 
ning dame, tapping her husband on the cheek, "you will 
make it a point to show that little barrister some civility. 
He is a very knowing little man and we must have him on 
our side. Suppose he is playing a part? Well, then do 
you play a part too. Pretend to let him dupe you, and 
then, if he has talent and a promising future, make a friend 
of him. Do you think I want to see you in that mayor's 
office forever?" 

"Come, old woman," said the retired clarinetist smiling, 
putting a finger on his knee to show his wife where she was 
to sit, "let us toast our toes and have a chat. Whenever I 
look at you I am more and more convinced of the fact that 
the youth of a woman is in her figure." 

"And in her heart — V 

"In both," answered Colleville. "A light figure and a 
heavy heart." 

"No, you great stupid, a deep heart!" 

"Your best point is to have kept your complexion with- 
out growing stout. But then you have small bones! Any- 
how, Flavie, if I had to begin life over again, 1 would not 
choose another wife." 

'You know very well that I have always liked you 
better than the others. What a pity Monseigneur is dead. 
Do you know what I would like for you?" 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 71 

"No." 

"A place in the city government of about twelve thou- 
sand francs, something like a cashier, either at the munici- 
pal office in Paris, or else at Poissy." 

"That would suit me very well." 

"Well, now, if that wretch of a barrister could do any- 
thing — he is versed in intrigue — let us keep him iu hand. 
I will sound him, just leave it to me, and above all do not 
cross him at the Thuilliers'.' ' 

A young officer, two fops, a banker, an awkward young 
man and poor Colleville — these were sad experiences. Once 
in her life Madame Colleville had conceived of happiness, 
but her dream had not been realized. Death had quickly 
interrupted the only passion in which Flavie had found any 
lasting charm. For two years she had been giving ear to 
the voice of religion, which told her that neither the Church 
nor society speak of happiness and love, but of duty and 
resignation; that in the eye of these two great powers hap- 
piness lies in the satisfaction given by the fulfilment of 
duty, however painful or exacting, and that reward is not 
of this world. But her religion was a mask, not a reality, 
something that she expected to turn to good account. Her 
curiosity was greatly excited when she heard Theodose de- 
scribe her state of mind without assuming any pretension 
of attempting to profit by it, but assaulting only the inner 
side of her nature with the purpose of awakening another 
illusion. From the beginning of the winter she was aware 
that The'odose was making a thorough study of her. More 
than once she had put on her gray moire, her best lace, and 
flowers in her hair, so to appear at her best advantage, for 
men always know when a woman is dressed up for them. 
The dreadful dandy of the Empire, Thuillier, was murder- 



72 BALZAC'S WORKS 

ing her with vapid flatteries, but Theodose said a thousand 
times more with a glance. 

Flavie had been expecting him to declare himself from 
Sunday to Sunday. Said she to herself — "He knows I am 
poor and he has nothing himself. Perhaps he is really 
pious." 

Theodose did not wish to hurry matters and, like a skil- 
ful musician, he knew the place in the symphony where he 
would hit the big drum. When he saw Colleville raising 
suspicions about him in the mind of Thuillier he had fired 
his shot, so cleverly prepared during the three or four 
months in which he had been studying Flavie, and had 
succeeded, just as in the morning he had with Thuillier. 
As he went to bed he said to himself — "The wife is on my 
side and her husband detests me. Just now they are quar- 
relling and I shall come out best, because she can turn her 
husband round her little finger." 

The Provencal was mistaken in this, for there was not a 
vestige of a quarrel, inasmuch as Colleville was asleep by 
his dear little Flavie's side, while she was telling herself — 
"Theodose is a superior man." 

A great many men, just in the fashion of la Peyrade, 
draw their strength from the audacity of the difficulty of an 
enterprise. The efforts they put forth develop their mus- 
cles, and they exert themselves strenuously. Afterward, 
whether they triumph or fail, every one is astonished to find 
them so small, insignificant, or worn out. After having 
aroused the minds of the two individuals on whom Celeste's 
fate depended to an almost feverish state of curiosity, Theo- 
dose pretended to be a very busy man. For five or six days 
he was out from morning until night, so as not to see Flavie 
again till her desire should have reached the point where 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 73 

she would cease to regard the proprieties, and so as to com- 
pel the old dandy to call upon him. 

The following Sunday he was almost certain of finding 
Madame Colleville at church. They in fact came out at 
the same moment, and met in the Rue Deux Eglises, and 
Theodose offered his arm to Flavie, who took it, sending 
her daughter on in front with her brother Anatole. This 
boy, then twelve years old, was to enter a boarding school, 
but in the meantime was a day boarder at Barniol's, where 
he was being instructed in the first principles, and naturally 
euough Phellion's son-in-law had made a reduction in the 
price of his tuition, in view of the prospective alliance 
between Felix Phellion and Celeste. 

"Have you done me the honor and the favor to think 
of what I expressed so feebly the other day?" asked the 
barrister with a caressing voice, pressing the pretty church- 
goer's arm to his heart, with a gesture at once gentle and 
strong, because he wished to appear respectful contrary to 
his instincts. "Do not misunderstand my motives," he re- 
sumed, as he met a glance from Madame Colleville such as 
women practiced in the science of love know how to dis- 
pense, and which may either denote a reprimand or a secret 
community of sentiment. "I love you, as one must love a 
fine nature, battling with misfortune. Christian charity in- 
cludes the strong, as well as the weak, and its treasures 
belong to all. Refined, elegant and graceful as you are, 
made to adorn the highest society, who could without deep 
sympathy see you thrust among these odious middle-class 
people, who do not understand you, not even the nobility 
of your bearing or your looks, or the charming inflections of 
your voice! Oh, if I were only rich! Oh, if I only had 

power, your husband, a thorough good fellow, should be- 
(D)— Vol. 16 



74 BALZAC'S WORKS 

come receiver-general, and you would get him elected 
deputy! But, poor and ambitious, I have nothing to offer 
you but my arm, instead of offering you my heart. I hope 
for everything from a good marriage, and you may believe 
that I shall not only make my wife happy, but 1; .c b' \- up to 
one of the first positions in the country by the means of the 
money she brings me. It is a fine day. Come, let us take 
a turn in the Luxembourg." 

Flavie's yielding arm indicated consent, but as she de- 
served the honor of a show of violence he dragged her along 
saying — "Come! Such a favorable moment may not occur 
again. Oh, your husband is looking at us, he is there at 
the window; let us go slowly — " 

"There is nothing to fear from Monsieur Colleville," 
said Flavie smiling, " he leaves me to do just as I 
please." 

"Oh, you are the woman of my dreams!" cried the Pro- 
vencal in the ecstatic accents that flare up only from south- 
ern souls and issue from southern lips. 'Your pardon, Ma- 
dame," said he, recovering himself, and coming down from 
an upper region to the damaged angel whom he eyed 
piously. "Your pardon; I am coming back to what I was 
going to say! How should one be insensible to the pain 
one's self feels, when one sees an equal amount borne by a 
creature whose life ought to be all sunshine and happiness ? 
Your sorrows are mine. I am no more in my right place 
than you are in yours. The same ill fortune has made us 
brother and sister. Dear Flavie ! The first day that I had 
the bliss of setting eyes on you was the last Sunday in Sep- 
tember, 1838. How beautiful you were. I shall often see 
you again in that little Scotch plaid dress. That day I said 
to myself: Why is that woman connected with the Thuil- 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 75 

liers, and how does she come to have anything to do with 
such as Thuillier?" 

"Monsieur!" said Flavie, frightened at the dangerous 
turn the Provencal was giving the conversation. 

"Oh, I know everything," said he, accompanying his 
words with a shrug, "and I understand everything, and 
my regard for you is none the smaller. Come, yours are not 
the sins of an ugly woman or a hunchback. You must reap 
the fruits of your error and I will help you. Celeste will 
be very rich, and in that you shall find your future welfare. 
But you can only have one son-in-law; so choose the right 
one. An ambitious one may rise to be minister, but he will 
humiliate you, worry you, and make your daughter un- 
happy, and if he once squanders her fortune, he will cer- 
tainly never make it up again. Yes, it is true that I love 
you, and I love you with the deepest affection; you are far 
above anything petty or foolish. Let us understand each 
other." 

Flavie was quite amazed. She nevertheless was sensible 
to the extreme frankness of these words, and said to herself 
"This man is candid enough, to be sure," but she confessed 
inwardly that she had never been so profoundly moved and 
stirred as by this young man. 

"Monsieur, I do not know who could have led you 
to any such suppositions as to my life, nor by what right 
you-" 

"Oh, I ask your pardon, Madame," broke in the Pro- 
vencal with contemptuous coldness, "I must have been 
dreaming, I was saying to myself, 'she is all of this,' but 
I see that I was misled by appearances. I know now why 
you will always remain on your fourth story up there in the 
Rue d'Enfer. " And he accompanied this sentence with an 



76 BALZAC'S WORKS 

energetic gesture, pointing to the windows of Colleville's 
apartment, which were visible from the avenue of the 
Luxembourg, where they were taking their solitary 
walk. 

"I was quite open, and I expected the same from you. 
Madame, I have sometimes been without food, but I con- 
trived to make a living, to study law, to get my licentiate's 
degree in Paris with a total capital of two thousand francs, 
and I entered the Barriere d'ltalie with five hundred francs 
in my pockets, vowing, like one of my compatriots, some 
day to be one of the first men in my country. And do you 
think that a man who has often picked up a meal from the 
baskets into which the leavings of the eating houses are 
thrown, do you think that man will shrink from any means 
— reputable means ? Oh, you think I am the friend of the 
people," said he smiling. "Reputation requires a speaking 
trumpet. It is not audible coming merely from the lips, and 
without reputation what is the use of talent? The advo- 
cate of the poor will be the advocate of the rich. Have I 
disclosed myself sufficiently ? Open your heart to me. 
Say, 'let us be friends,' and we shall all be happy some 
day." 

"Heavens! why did I come here? Why did I give you 
my arm?" exclaimed Flavie. 

"Because it is written in your destiny," he answered. 
"My dear, beloved Flavie," he answered, again pressing 
her arm to his heart, "did you expect to hear vulgarities 
from me? We are brother and sister — that is all." 

And he turned back toward the Rue d'Enfer. 

Flavie was experiencing the fear in the midst of her sat- 
isfaction that violent emotions bring to the female heart, 
and she took this terror for the sort of fright that a new 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 77 

passion evokes. But she was fascinated, and observed pro- 
found silence as they walked along. 

"What are you thinking of?" asked Theodose, half way 
home. 

"Of everything you have been just telling me," was her 
reply. 

"But," he rejoined, "at our age preliminaries are omitted, 
we are not children, and we both live in a sphere in which 
we ought to understand each other. Believe me," he 
added, as they turned into the Rue d'Enfer, "I am alto- 
gether yours." And he made her a deep bow. 

"The irons are in the fire!" said he as he watched his 
dizz3 r prey. 

When he reached home, The'odose found on his landing 
an individual who plays, as it were, a submarine part in this 
story, and who takes the place in it of a buried church over 
which stands a palace. The sight of this man, who, after 
ringing Theodose's bell in vain was trying Dutocq's door, 
made the Provencal barrister tremble, though he betrayed 
no external sign of emotion. The man was that Cerizet 
whom Dutocq had already mentioned to Thuillier as his 
copyist. 

Cerizet, who was only thirty-eight years of age, looked 
like a man of fifty, so much was he aged by everything that 
can age a man. His hairless head presented a yellow skull, 
not quite covered by a discolored wig; his pale, flaccid, 
fiercely rugged visage looked the more horrible as the nose 
was partly eaten away, but not so far as to allow the substi- 
tution of a false one. From the bridge, at the forehead, the 
nose was as nature had made it, but the disease which had 
eaten the nostrils had left nothing but two ugly holes, which 
affected his enunciation and impeded his speech. His eyes, 



78 BALZAC'S WORKS 

once fine, were dim from use at night, and red round the 
edges. His glance, when it expressed a message of evil 
from his soul, would have terrified either a judge or a crim- 
inal, or even men who are frightened at nothing. His de- 
pleted mouth, where a few black stumps were visible, was 
like a hideous cavern; it was occasionally moistened by 
bubbles of saliva, which did not, however, overflow the 
pale, thin lips. CeVizet, a short man, not so much lean 
as dried up, strove to remedy his personal disadvantages 
by his clothes, which he kept in a state of cleanliness that, 
perhaps, threw his poverty into stronger relief. Everything 
about him seemed doubtful; everything was like his age, 
and like his glance; it was impossible to tell whether he 
was thirty-eight or sixty, whether his faded blue trousers, 
which fitted closely, would soon be the fashion, or whether 
they belonged to the fashion of 1835. His boots, trodden 
down at the heels, carefully polished, and soled for the third 
time, had perhaps walked ministerial carpets. His overcoat, 
laced with frogs, had been washed by many showers, and 
suggested departed elegance. The satin coat collar fortu- 
nately concealed his linen, but was torn by the buckle at 
the back, and the satin had been satined over again by a 
greasy substance distilled from the wig. When he was 
young, his waistcoat had 'an air of smartness, but it was 
one of those waistcoats bought for four francs from a 
ready-made clothing stall. Everything was as scrupulously 
brushed as his shining and worn silk hat. Everything was 
in harmony, and accorded with the black gloves concealing 
the hands of this subaltern Mephistopheles, whose earlier 
career may be described in a few words. 

He was an artist, an artist of evil, with whom from the 
very beginning evil had been a success, and who, carried 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 79 

away by his first triumphs, continued in his infamies, the 
while keeping on the windy side of the law. Having be- 
come proprietor of a printing house through the betrayal of 
his master, he had been fined as publisher of a liberal news- 
paper, and under the Eestoration was one of the favorite 
butts of the royal government, and was known as the unfor- 
tunate Cerizet. This reputation of patriotism brought him 
the position of sub-prefect in 1830; six months afterward 
he was dismissed, but he claimed to have been condemned 
without a hearing, and made such a commotion that under 
the Perier administration he became editor of an anti- 
republican journal subventioned by the ministry. He left 
the newspaper to take up business, and became entangled 
in one of the worst joint-stock companies in the ken of the 
police. He served his term of imprisonment in a madhouse. 
The men in power, whose tool he had been, at last grew 
ashamed of a man come out of the foundling hospital, and 
whose scandalous and shameful transactions, in which a re- 
tired banker named Claparon was associated, had at length 
brought general reprobation upon him. So that Cerizet, 
falling down the social ladder, step by step, through pity 
obtained the place of copyist in Dutocq's office. In the 
depth of wretchedness, this man was plotting revenge, and 
as he had nothing more to lose, would reject no weapon. 
He and Dutocq were bound together by habits of equal 
depravity. Cerizet was to Dutocq, in their quarter of the 
town, what the. dog is to the hunter. Cerizet, familiar with 
the wants of all the needy, practiced that species of gutter 
usury known as short loans. He had begun by dividing 
up with Dutocq, and that erstwhile Paris street boy, now 
become the fishwives 1 banker and the teamsters' broker, 
wa^ the gnawing worm of two precincts. 



80 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"Well," said Cerizet, seeing Dutocq open his door, 
"since Theodose has come back, let as go to him." And 
the advocate of the poor allowed these two men to pass in 
before him. They all went through a little room into which 
the daylight shone through cotton curtains upon a small, 
round walnut table, and upon the walnut sideboard on 
which stood a lamp. From there they went on into a 
small room with red curtains and mahogany furniture cov- 
ered with red velvet; the wall opposite the windows was lined 
with books of jurisprudence. The chimney-piece carried or- 
naments of a vulgar description, a clock on four mahogany 
wood columns and candlesticks with glass shades. The 
study, where before a coal fire the three friends were about 
to open a discussion, was the typical apartment of the bud- 
ding barrister; the furniture consisted of a writing-desk, an 
armchair, a green carpet, short green silk blinds over the 
windows, a row of pigeon holes, and a sofa over which hung 
an ivory crucifix on a velvet background. The bedroom 
and the kitchen and the rest of the apartment looked out 
upon a courtyard. 

"Well," said Cerizet, "are we progressing?" 

"Of course we are," answered Theodose. 

"Acknowledge," exclaimed Dutocq, "that my idea was 
capital, inventing the means of nobbling that fool of a 
Thuillier." 

"Yes, but that is not all," said Cerizet; "this morning I 
am going to show you how to put the thumb-screws on the 
old maid and to make her hum. Let us understand each 
other. Mademoiselle Thuillier must be in this business: to 
have her is to capture the citadel. Let us not talk much, 
but let us talk well, as befits strong minds. My former as- 
sociate Claparon is, as you know, an idiot?, and will always 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 81 

be what he has been all his life — a figurehead. He is just 
now acting in that capacity in lending his name to a Paris 
notary mixed up in a building enterprise, in which notary, 
masons and all are going into bankruptcy! Claparon is the 
scapegoat. But among the six houses which will be for sale 
in consequence there is a jewel of a house, built entirely of 
freestone, situated in the neighborhood of the Madeleine, 
very handsomely sculptured outside, and as it is unfinished 
it will fetch a hundred thousand francs at the most. By 
spending twenty-live thousand francs upon it, it ought to 
yield about ten thousand francs in rent about two years 
from now. By making Mademoiselle Thuillier the owner 
of this property we shall earn her everlasting gratitude, 
the more so as we shall let her understand that every year 
such opportunities are to be found; and because to work for 
the Thuilliers is working for ourselves, we must give her the 
advantage of that bargain. As for the notary and Claparon, 
we shall leave them sticking in the mud." As he finished 
his argument, the bell rang and la Peyrade rose to go to 
the door. 

"Are you still satisfied with him?" Cerizet said to Du- 
tocq. "He seems to me rather — well, I know something 
about traitors." 

"He is so entirely at our mercy," said Dutocq, "that I 
do not even take the trouble to watch him, but between our- 
selves I did not think him as able as he turns out to be." 

"Let him beware," said Cerizet menacingly, "I can blow 
him over like a house of cards. As for you, Papa Dutocq, 
you are in a position to see him at work; therefore, watch 
him closely! Besides, I know of the means of testing him 
by having Claparon propose to him to get rid of us, and 
then we shall be able to judge him." 



82 BALZAC'S WORKS 

These words were exchanged in low tones during the 
time that Theodose went to the door. When he returned, 
Cerizet was looking at the case in the study. "It is Thuil- 
lier, " said Theodose, "I am expecting him; he is in the 
drawing-room, and he must not see Cerizet's overcoat," 
added the barrister, smiling, "those frogs would alarm him." 

"Tut! you are the champion of the poor; that is your 
role. Do you want any money?'.' added Ce'rizet, pulling a 
hundred francs from nis trousers' pockets. "Here, that 
ought to do." And he put the pile of gold on the chimney- 
piece. 

"No matter," said Dutocq, "we can go out through the 
bedroom." 

"Well, then, good-by," said the Provencal, opening the 
door which led from the study into the bedroom. "Come 
in, my dear Monsieur Thuillier, " he called out to the dandy 
of the Empire. 

"Well, my dear Theodose," said Thuillier, "we have 
been hoping to see you all the week, and we have been 
disappointed every evening. As Sunday is our day for 
having our friends for dinner, my sister and my wife asked 
me to come — " 

"I have been so busy," said Theodose, "that I have not 
had two minutes to give to anybody, not even yourself, 
whom I count among my friends, and whom I particularly 
wanted to speak to." 

'What? Then you have really been thinking seriously 
of what you told me?" asked Thuillier, interrupting 
Theodose. 

'If you had not come to conclude the agreement, I 
should respect you no less than I do," answered la Pey- 
rade, smiling. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 83 

"You have been assistant chief, you have some ambition 
left, and it is certainly a most legitimate one. Now come — 
between ourselves — when you see a Minard, a gilded crutch 
going to scrape and bow before the King and parading him- 
self at the Tuileries, or a Popinot on the highroad to the 
Cabinet, and then yourself, a man broken down in the ser- 
vice of the government, a man of thirty years' experience, 
who has seen six changes of the administration! Come, 
come! I am candid, my dear Thuillier, I want to push 
you, because you will pull me after you. Well, here is my 
plan. We shall have a member of the general municipal 
council to nominate for this district, and you must^be the 
man! You shall be the man! And one day you shall be 
the deputy to the Chamber for the district, when the elec- 
tions come round again, and they are not far off. The 
votes which elect you to the council will be yours at the 
election for the Chamber — you may trust that to me." 

"But how do you propose to go about this?" exclaimed 
the fascinated Thuillier. 

"You shall know how in good time, but allow me to 
conduct this long and difficult affair; if you commit any 
indiscretion, I shall simply say good-day to you." 

"Oh! you can certainly count on the absolute silence of 
a former assistant chief. I have had secrets which — " 

'Very well. But now you must have secrets from your 
wife, your sister, from Monsieur and Madame Colleville." 

"Not a muscle of my face shall move," said Thuillier. 

"Good again," resumed la Peyrade, "and I shall put 
you to the test. To be eligible you must pay a certain 
amount in taxes, which you are not paying now." 

"1 beg your pardon, 1 am eligible for the municipal 
council; I pay two francs eighty-six centimes." 



84 BALZAC S WORKS 

"Yes, but for the Chamber the rate is five hundred 
francs, and there is no time to lose, since possession for a 
year must be established." 

"The devil!" said Thuillier. "To be rated at five hun- 
dred francs in a year's time — " 

"By the end of July, at the latest, you will be paying 
that amount; my devotion to you goes as far as to make 
me impart to you a secret by which you can derive an in- 
come of thirty or forty thousand francs with a capital of at 
most one hundred and fifty thousand. But your sister has 
long bad charge ot your financial interests, which I am far 
from finding fault with, for she has the best judgment in 
the world. You must therefore let me begin by winning 
the affection and friendship of Mademoiselle Brigitte, in 
proposing this investment to her; and here is my reason: if 
Mademoiselle Thuillier had no faith in me, we should get 
into trouble; but is it for you to ask your sister to buy and 
enter the property in your name ? The idea had better 
come from me. In either case, you can both be judges of 
the suggestion. As for my plan of getting you into the 
municipal council of the Seine, here it is: Phellion has a 
quarter of the votes of the district at his disposal, fle and 
Leudigeois have lived here for thirty years, and are as good 
as oracles. I have a friend who has another quarter at his 
command, and the vicar of Saint-Jacques, who wields a 
certain influence, owing to his reputation, also controls a 
few votes. Dutocq, who, as well as the others, has connec- 
tions among the people, will serve me also, especially if I 
am not acting for myself. Finally, there is Colleville, who 
as secretary at the municipality represents another quarter 
of the votes." 

'You are right! I am elected!" cried Thuillier. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 85 

"You think so," said la Peyrade, in a terribly ironical 
tone of voice; "then just go to your friend Colleville, and 
see what he has to say! No success in the case of an elec- 
tion is ever secured by the candidate himself, but always by 
his friends. One must never ask anything for one's self; 
one must be asked to accept; one must seem to be without 
ambition. " 

"La Peyrade!" exclaimed Thuillier, getting up and 
taking the young barrister's hand, "yon are a great man." 

"Not as great a man as you, but I have my little quali- 
ties," answered the Provencal smiling. 

"And supposing we win, how shall I reward you?" 
innocently asked Thuillier. 

"Ah, there now — you will think I am impertient; but 
believe me, there is a sentiment in me that is an excuse for 
everything, because it gives me the courage to undertake 
anything. T like you, and I am making yon my confi- 
dant—" 

"But who—?" said Thuillier. 

"Your dear little Celeste," answered la Peyrade; "and 
my attachment to you will answer for my devotion. What 
would I not do for a father-in-law. It is selfishness; I am 
working for myself — " 

"No, no!" cried Thuillier. 

"Well, my friend," said la Peyrade, putting his arm 
round Thuillier, "if I had not Flavie on my side, and if 1 
did not know everything, would I be speaking to you about 
this question ? Only do not broach the subject to her yet. ■ 
Listen. I am of the stuff that cabinet ministers are made 
of, and I do not want to take Celeste without deserving her; 
therefore, you will not give her to me until the day when 
enough ballots are cast for your name to make you a deputy 



86 BALZAC'S WORKS 

of Paris. To that end you must get the better of Minard; 
so Minard must be annihilated. But since you must nurse 
your influence, leave them the hope of getting Celeste, and 
we shall fool them all. Madame, you, and I, we shall all 
of us some day be important people. Do not think that I 
am interested. I want Celeste without any marriage por- 
tion, but with prospects only. To live with your family 
and leave my wife in your company, that is my programme. 
You see, I have no schemes in the background. As for 
yourself, six months after your appointment to the general 
council you will have the Cross of the Legion, and when 
you are deputy, you will be made an officer of the Order. 
Your speeches in the Chamber — well, we will write them 
together! Perhaps it may be well for you to appear the 
author of some profound book on half moral, half political 
issues — as, for instance, on 'Charitable Institutions Con- 
sidered from a Lofty Standpoint,' or 'On the Reform of 
the Pawnbroking System.' Let us have your name noised 
about a little — that will do some good, particularly in this 
district. I have told you that you should have the Cross 
and become a member of the general municipal council of 
the department of the Seme. So put your faith in me. Do 
not think of making me one of your family until you have 
the ribbon in your buttonhole, and until the day that you 
sit in the Chamber of Deputies. But I will do more still: I 
will see to it that you have an income of forty thousand 
francs a year!" 

"For either of those three things singly you should have 
our Celeste!" 

'That pearl!" said la Peyrade, raising his eyes to 
heaven. "I confess to the weakness of praying for her 
everyday. How charming she is! And not unlike your- 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 87 

self, by the way. But good-by. I am going to the Phel- 
lions to work for you. Of course, it is understood that you 
are a hundred miles from thinking of giving me Celeste! 
Of course, you would sooner cut my arms and legs off! 
Not a word about this, even to Flavie! Let her mention it 
to you first. Phellion will positively assault you this even- 
ing to get your sanction for his plan of putting you up as a 
candidate." 

"This evening!" said Thuillier. 

"This evening," answered la Peyrade, "unless I should 
not find him at home." 

As Thuillier went out, he said to himself: "Now there 
is a superior person! We always understand each other, 
and, forsooth, it would be hard to find a better husband 
for Celeste. They will live in our house with us, and that 
is a great deal. He is really a very good fellow, a very 
good man — " 

For minds of Thuillier's stamp a secondary considera- 
tion has all the importance of a capital reason. Theodose 
had behaved with the most delightful civility. 

The house toward which the wily barrister was wending 
his way a few minutes after was the abode of the Phellions. 
The head of that family, owing to his civic virtues and the 
profound and general esteem that he enjoyed in the district, 
luul kept his position as major in the National Guard for 
eight years. He was approaching sixty, and seeing the time 
near to unbuckle his sword, was in hopes that the King 
Would reward his services with the Cross of the Legion 
of Honor. 

The love of truth compels us to say — in spite of the fact 
that such pettiness was a blot on his fine character — that 
Major Phellion stood on tiptoe at the reception at the Tui- 



88 BALZAC'S WORKS 

leries; he pushed forward; he took secret glances at the 
citizen-king when he dined at his table; he intrigued 
persistently, without ever being able to get the distinction 
of a look from the king of his choice. This worthy man 
had more than once thought of begging Minard to second 
his secret ambition, but had never fully made up his mind 
to do so. 

Phellion, the man of passive obedience, was a stoic in 
the matter of duty, a man of iron in everything concerning 
questions of conscience. To complete this picture by a 
physical description, we will add that, at fifty-nine, Phel- 
lion had "stoutened," to use a middle class term; his stolid 
face, marked with smallpox, had become as round as a full 
moon, so that his lips, which would otherwise have ap 
peared as very thick, looked the ordinary size. His 
dimmed eyes, protected by blue spectacles, no longer 
smiled in the innocence of their clear blue. His white hair 
crowned with dignity features which a dozen years earlier 
had bordered on the silly and the ridiculous. Time, which 
works such unfortunate changes in fine delicate faces, beau- 
tifies those which, in youth, are coarse and heavy in outline. 
And this was Phellion 's case. He filled the leisure of his 
old age with writing a short history of France, for Phellion 
was the author of several works used in the University 
curriculum. 

When la Peyrade presented himself, the family was at 
its full complement, Madame Barniol just then giving her 
mother the latest news of one of her children, who was 
slightly indisposed. The engineering student was spend- 
ing his day home. All in their Sunday best, and sitting 
before the fireplace in the wainscoted drawing-room (painted 
in two shades of gray), in second-hand armchairs, they felt 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 89 

a thrill when Genevieve, the cook, announced the indi- 
vidual they had just been mentioning in connection with 
Celeste, whom Felix loved well enough to go to Mass to 
see. The sapient mathematician had put forth this effort 
that same morning, and jokes were being passed about on 
the subject, with an undercurrent of hope that Celeste and 
her parents would recognize what a treasure was at their beck. 

"Alas! the Thuilliers seem bewitched by a very danger- 
ous man," said Madame Phellion. "This morning he took 
Madame Colleville's arm, and they went to the Luxembourg 
together." 

"There is something about that barrister," said Felix 
Phellion. "It would not surprise me if he had committed 
a crime." 

"You are going too far," said Phellion the father; "he 
is cousin -german to Tartuffe, that immortal creation of our 
honest Moliere; for Moliere had honesty and patriotism for 
the foundation of his genius." 

It was following this remark that Genevieve came in 
to say, "Monsieur de la Peyrade is here and would like to 
speak to Monsieur." 

"To me?" exclaimed Monsieur. "Show him in!" He 
spoke with that solemnity in small matters which had a 
tinge of absurdity in it, but to which he had accustomed 
his family, where he was regarded as king. 

Phellion, his two sons, his wife, and his daughter Pose 
answered the comprehensive salute made them all by the 
barrister. 

'To what do we owe the honor of your visit, Monsieur?" 
said Phellion with severity. 

'To your importance in the district, my dear Monsieur 
Phellion, and to public affairs," answered Theodose. 



90 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"In that case, let us go into my study," said Phellion. 

"No, no, my friend," said the dry Madame Phellion, a 
little woman as flat as a board, who kept her face set in the 
sour grimace that she wore at her music lessons in young 
ladies' boarding schools, "we others will retire." 

"Am I so unfortunate as to drive you away," said Theo- 
dose good-naturedly, smiling at mother and daughter. "You 
have a delightful home here," he went on, "and you want 
nothing but a pretty daughter in-law to let you spend the 
rest of your days in the aurea mediocritas , and in the midst 
of family joys. You certainly merit those rewards by your 
past career; for, as I have been told, my dear Monsieur Phel- 
lion, you are at the same time a good citizen and a patriot." 

"Monsieur," said the embarrassed Phellion, "Monsieur, 
I have done my duty, and that is all." 

At the word "daughter-in-law," uttered by Theodose, 
Madame Barniol, who was as like her daughter as two drops 
of water, looked at Madame Phellion and Felix with an 
expression which seemed to say: "Surely we are not mis- 
taken?" 

Their inclination to talk over the incident made these 
four people retire into the garden, for in March, 1840, the 
weather was fine, at least in Paris. 

"Major," said Theodose, when he was alone with the 
worthy man, whom this title always flattered, "I have come 
to speak to you about the election — " 

"Yes, to be sure, we have to nominate a municipal coun- 
cillor," said Phellion, interrupting him. 

"And it is precisely on the subject of a candidate that 
I have come to disturb your Sunday rest, but it may be 
that the matter will not take us beyond the circle of your 
family." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 91 

Phellion himself could not possibly have been more 
Phellion than Theodose was at this moment. 

"I shall not let you say another word," answered the 
major, profiting by Theodose's pause (designed to deepen 
the effect of his speech); "my choice is made." 

"Then we both have the same idea!" exclaimed Theo- 
dose. "Honest people may meet just like clever people!" 

"This time I do not believe in your rule," replied Phel- 
lion. "This district was represented in the municipal coun- 
cil by the most virtuous of men, as he was the greatest of 
magistrates, that is to say, by the late Monsieur Popinot, 
Councillor of State. When the time came to fill his place, 
my nephew, the heir to his beneficence, was not a resident 
of the district, but since then he has bought and now occu- 
pies the house where his uncle lives. He is the physician 
of the Polytechnique School, and practices in one of our 
hospitals. He is a credit to this precinct. Upon these con- 
siderations, and in order to honor the memory of the uncle 
in the person of the nephew, several of the residents of this 
district and myself have resolved to put forward the name 
of Doctor Horace Bianchon, member of the Academy of Sci- 
ences and one of the coming lights of that renowned insti- 
tution. A man is not great in our eyes only because he is 
famous, and the defunct Popinot was in my opinion almost 
a Saint Vincent de Paul." 

"A doctor is not an administrator," answered Theodose; 
"and, besides, I have come to ask your suffrage for one 
to whom your dearest interests will compel you to sacrifice- 
your taste, which indeed can be. of no importance when 
it comes to considering the public welfare." 

"Ah, Monsieur!" exclaimed Phellion, getting up, and 
striking the attitude of Lafont in "le Glorieux," "do you 



92 BALZAC'S WORKS 

think so little of me as to believe that private interests will 
influence my political conscience? As soon as it is a case 
of the public welfare, I am a citizen, nothing less, nothing 
more!" 

The'odose smiled to himself at the thought of the conflict 
about to be waged between the father and the citizen. 

"Do not thus commit yourself toward yourself, I beg 
you," said la Peyracle, "for the happiness of your dear 
Felix is at stake." 

"What do you mean by those words .?" asked Phellion, 
stopping in the middle of the room, and passing his fingers 
between the buttons of his waistcoat, in the manner of the 
famous Odilon Barrot. 

"Well, I am here on behalf of our mutual friend, the es- 
timable and excellent Monsieur Thuillier, whose power over 
the destiny of the lovely Celeste Colleville is sufficiently 
well known to you. Your son, a young man of whom any 
family might be proud, is paying his court to Celeste, and 
you could do no better to win the eternal gratitude of the 
Thuilliers than by commending your worthy friend to the 
suffrages of your fellow citizens. As for me, although a new- 
comer in this district, thanks to the influence which a few 
small benefactions to the poorer classes have secured me, I 
might take the initiative myself, but services to the poor are 
of little credit in the sight of the largest taxpayers, and, be- 
sides, my modest ways would ill accord with such a demon- 
stration. I have devoted myself, Monsieur, to the poor and 
humble, like the sublime Popinot, and if I did not feel 
called to an almost priestly mode of life, which precludes 
the obligations of matrimony, my tastes, my vocation, would 
be to enter the service of the Lord, to join the Church. I 
make no fuss about it like the sham philanthropists; I do 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 98 

not write about it, but I act, for I am simply a man who has 
entirely given himself up to works of Christian charity. I 
thought I had guessed our friend Thuillier's ambition, 
and I desired to work for the welfare of two beings made 
for each other by suggesting to you the means of entering 
Thuillier's rather cold heart." 

Phellion was dumfounded by this admirably delivered 
oration. He was seized, dazzled, but he remained Phellion. 
He went up to the barrister, put out his hand to him, and 
la Peyrade clasped it in his. 

"Monsieur," said the major in deep emotion, "I judged 
you wrongly. What you have done me the honor to confide 
to me shall die here!" he added pointing to his heart. 
"There are few men like you. Eeal goodness is met with 
so rarely that our weak nature is apt not to trust to appear- 
ances. You have a friend in me, if you will allow me the 
honor of calling myself so. But you shall know me, Mon- 
sieur; I should lose my own respect for myself if I pro 
posed Thuillier. No, my son shall not owe his happiness 
to an evil deed of his father's. I shall not vote for a new 
candidate because of any interests of my son's. Such, Mon- 
sieur, is virtue!" 

La Peyrade pulled out his handkerchief, rubbed his eye 
with it, and squeezed out a tear, and then extended his hand 
to Phellion, as he turned away his head: 

"Here, Monsieur, we have the sublimities of private and 
political life in contest. Had I come to witness nothing but 
this sight, my visit would not have been in vain. Monsieur, 
in your place I would do the same! You are the noblest 
work of God — an honest man ! You are a citizen after the 
heart of Jean -Jacques Rousseau! Many such citizens, oh, 
France! oh, my country! and what wouldst thou not rise 



94 BALZAC'S WORKS 

to! Monsieur, it is I who beg the honor of calling myself 
your friend!" 

"What is going on ?" exclaimed Madame Phellion, who 
was watching this scene through the window, "your father 
and that monster are embracing." 

Phellion and the barrister went out into the garden to 
join the family. 

"My dear Felix," said the old man, pointing to la Pey- 
rade, who was bowing to Madame Phellion, "be very, very 
grateful to this worthy young man; he will do you more 
good than harm." 

The barrister walked for five minutes with Madame Bar 
niol and Madame Phellion under the leafless linden trees and 
gave them some advice that in the face of Phellion's threat- 
ening resistance to his plan was to bear fruit that evening, 
and whose immediate effect was to convert these two dames 
into two admirers of his talent, his candor, and his inestima- 
bly high qualities. The barrister was escorted to the door 
by the family in a body. Madame Phellion, returning to 
the drawing-room, said to her husband — "Surely, my friend, 
you, such a good father, will not spoil the best match our 
Felix could possibly make by an excess of delicacy!" 

"My dear," retorted Phellion, "the great men of an- 
tiquity, like Brutus and others, were never fathers when i t 
was a question of being citizens. The middle class has, still 
more than the nobility, which it has been called upon to 
replace, the highest obligations of virtue devolving upon 
it. We must prove our mettle. Let us be faithful to duty 
all the way up the ladder of the social hierarchy. Should I 
teach my famiW these principles only to reject them my- 
self at the moment when I ought to apply them? No, my 
dear, weep if you like to-day, to-morrow you will respect 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 95 

me the more," said he, seeing his dried-up little better half 
with tears in her eyes. 

These fine sentiments were spoken on the threshold 
of the door over which was engraved the motto: Aurea 
Mediocritas. 

"I ought to have put et digna !" added Phellion, pointing 
to the tablet, "but those two words would imply self-praise." 

"Father," said Theodore Phellion, the future engineer, 
when the whole family had gathered in the drawing-room, 
"it seems to me that you are not forfeiting your honor if 
you change your mind regarding a choice which is, in itself, 
unimportant to the public good." 

"Unimportant, my boy!" cried Phellion. "I may say 
between ourselves, and Felix shares my opinion, that Mon- 
sieur Thuillier is a man of no mental resources whatever! 
He is an ignoramus! Monsieur Bianchon is a capable man, 
who will do a great deal for our district, while Thuillier 
will do nothing. But understand, my son, that to change 
a good decision for a bad one, because of personal motives, 
is an infamous action, which may escape the vengeance of 
men, but which God will punish. Believe me, I am inno- 
cent of all reproach before my conscience, and I must leave 
inv name without stain to your memory. Nothing shall 
make me change." 

"Oh, my dear old father!" exclaimed little Madame 
Barniol, throwing herself on a footstool at Phellion's knee, 
"do not ride the high horse! There are many idiots and 
simpletons in the town council, and France goes on all the 
same. He will do very well, our friend Thuillier! Just 
remember that Celeste will probably have five hundred 
thousand francs." 

"And if she had millions," said Phellion, "I would not 



96 BALZAC'S WORKS 

care! I would not vote for Thuillier, when I owe it to the 
memory of the best of men to have Horace BianchoD nomi- 
nated. From his seat in heaven Popinot smiles upon me, 
and applauds me!" cried Phellion in exaltation. "It is 
thus that France is belittled abroad, and that the middle 
class is misjudged." 

"My father is right," said Felix, coming out of a deep 
revery, "and he deseryes our respect and our love, as he 
always has in the course of his modest and honorable life. I 
would not wish to owe my happiness nor my life to either a 
single pang of remorse of his, or to intrigue. I love Celeste 
as well as I love my own family, but I put above all my 
father's honor, and from the moment there is a question 
of conscience with him 1 surrender." 

Phellion, with tears in his eyes, went up to his oldest 
son, took him in his arms, and said in a choked voice — 
"My son! my son!" 

"That is all folly," whispered Madame Phellion to Ma- 
dame Barniol. "Come, help me to dress, we must put an 
end to this. I know your father; he is in one of his fits of 
obstinacy. To carry out the suggestion of that good and 
pious young man, I want your arm, Theodore, so hold 
yourself in readiness, my boy." 

At this moment Genevieve came in with a letter for 
Phellion senior. 

"An invitation to dinner for my wife, myself, and Felix 
at the Thuilliers," he announced. 

La Peyrade's magnificent and astonishing idea had 
upset the Thuilliers quite as much as it had upset the 
Phellions; and Jerome, without confiding to his sister — as 
he considered himself in honor bound to be faithful to his 
promise to Mephistopheles — had gone to her in great per- 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 97 

turbation, and had said: "My dear little girl, we shall have 
swells to dinner to-day. I am going to invite the Minards, 
and I am writing to Monsieur and Madame Phellion to 
invite them also. It is rather late, but with them it does 
not matter. But as to the Minards, we must throw dust 
into their eyes and make some excuse, as 1 shall want to 
make use of them." 

"Four Minards, three Phellions, four Collevilles, and 
ourselves — that makes thirteen." 

"La Peyrade fourteen, and it might be well to invite 
Dutocq, who will be useful. I will go to see him." 

"What can you be thinking about?" said his sister. 
"Fifteen to dinner — that means at least forty francs set 
spinning!" 

"Never mind that, my dear, and especially be very 
sweet to our young friend la Peyrade. He is a real friend, 
as you shall see! If you love me, treat him as you would 
the apple of your eye. ' ' 

And he left Brigitte in utter stupefaction. 

"Oh, yes, I shall wait for proofs, sure enough," said she 
to herself. "I am not to be caught by fine phrases, not I! 
He is a nice boy, but before taking him into my heart I 
must look at him more closely. ' ' 

After inviting Dutocq, Thuillier, having embellished 
his person, repaired to the Kue Macons-Sorbonne to Min- 
ard's house to throw his charms at the fat Zelie, disguising 
the impromptu invitation. 

"Can you forgive me, lovely lady," said Thuillier, con- 
torting himself into pose number two of his repertoire, "for 
leaving this invitation on my desk, and thinking that it had 
been sent? It is for to-day; perhaps I am too late — " 

Zelie scanned her husband's face, who stepped up to 

(E)— Vol. 16 



98 BALZAC'S WORKS 

shake hands with Thuillier, and she answered — "We were 
to have gone to look at a country house, and dine at hazard 
at a restaurant, but we will give up the idea gladly, as I 
think it is exceedingly vulgar to go out of town for 
Sunday." 

"We shall have a little hop for the young people, if there 
are enough of us, which I think there will be." 

"Am I to dress?" asked Madame Minard. 

"Certainly not," said Thuillier; "my sister would scold 
me nicely if you did. No, this is a family affair! In the 
days of the Empire, Madame, it was in the dance that 
acquaintances were made. In that brilliant epoch a fine 
dancer was thought as much of as a good soldier. To-day 
people are addicted too much to positive qualities — " 

"Let us not talk politics," said the mayor smiling. 
"The King is a great and able man. I am an admirer of 
my own time, and of the institutions we have bestowed 
upon ourselves. The King, moreover, knows very well 
what he is about in developing commerce. He is at dag- 
gers drawn with England, whom we are injuring more by 
this fruitful peace than by the wars of the Empire." 

"What a deputy Minard will make!" innocently ex- 
claimed Zelize; "he practices speech-making at home, and 
you must help him to get nominated, won't you, Thuillier?" 

"Let us not talk politics," repeated Thuillier, "but come 
at five o'clock." 

"Will that little Vinet be there?" asked Minard. "He 
has an eye on Celeste, I think." 

"He may as well go into mourning for her," answered 
Thuillier; "Brigitte will not hear him mentioned." 

Zelie and Minard exchanged smiles of satisfaction. 
'To think that we must stoop to those people for our 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 99 

son's sake!" said Zelie, as soon as Thuillier was on the 
stair, whither the mayor had escorted him. 

"So you want to be a deputy!" said Thuillier to him- 
self, as he left the house. "They are never satisfied, these 
shopkeepers! Oh, heavens, what would Napoleon say if 
he saw the government in the hands of such people! I, at 
least, am an administrator! Gracious, what a rival! What 
will la Peyrade say?" The ambitious assistant chief went 
to invite the whole Leudigeois family to come in later in 
the evening, and went on to the Collevilles, so that Celeste 
might have time to put on a pretty dress. He found Flavie 
in a pensive mood; she hesitated to accept 4he invitation, 
and Thuillier put an end to her indecision. 

"My old and ever young friend," said he, putting his 
arm round her waist, as she was alone in the room, "I do 
not wish to have any secrets from you. A great affair is in 
motion for my benefit. I do not want to say any more, but 
I do want to ask you to make yourself particularly agree- 
able to a certain young man." 

"To whom?" 

"Young de la Peyrade." 

"And why, Charles?" 

"He holds my destiny in his fingers. Besides, he is a 
man of genius. Oh, I know my man. He has lots of 
this," said Thuillier, imitating the motion of a dentist ex- 
tracting a back tooth. "We must chain him to our cause, 
Flavie! And, above all, let us not show how necessary 
his influence is to us. I must appear to be doing all the 
giving." 

"Then, do you want me to flirt a little ?" 

"Not too much, my angel," answered Thuillier with a 
fatuous smile. 



100 BALZAC'S WORKS 

And he went away without noticing the sort of stupor 
into which Flavie was plunged. 

"He is a power for us, is that young man," said she to 
herself. "We shall see." 

And this accounted for her dressing her hair with 
feathers. She donned her pretty gray and pink dress, 
showed her handsome shoulders through her black man- 
tilla, and took the precaution of making Celeste wear a 
plain silk frock with a plaited collar. 

At half-past four, The'odose was at his post. He as- 
sumed his innocent and almost servile look and his gentle 
voice as he was walking with Thuillier in the garden. 

"My friend, I have no doubt but that you will succeed, 
but I find it necessary to enjoin absolute silence on you 
once more. If you are questioned on any point whatever, 
and especially about Celeste, you must have evasive answers 
ready, which will stop further inquiries, and of which you 
learned the art in your civil service experience." 

"Very well," answered Thuillier. "But is this thing a 
certainty?" 

"You shall see what a dessert I have prepared for you. 
Above all, be humble. Here are the Minards, leave me to 
talk to them. Bring them here, and then — " 

After bows were exchanged, la Peyrade was careful to 
take up his station near the mayor, whom at the opportune 
moment he took aside, addressing him as follows — "Mon- 
sieur Minard, a man of your political importance would not 
come here to be bored without having some object in view. 
It is not for me to judge your motives; I have not the least 
right to do so, and besides, it is not my part here below to 
interfere in the affairs of the earthly authorities. But for- 
give my presumption, and be so good as to listen to a piece 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 101 

of advice which 1 venture to proffer. If I render you a 
service to-day, you- are in a position to render me two to- 
morrow; therefore, in case I should be conferring beneiits 
upon you I am merely obeying the law of self-interest. Our 
friend Thuillier is in despair at being nobody, and he has 
taken it into his head to become somebody. He wants to 
be a personage in his district." 

"Ah, indeed?" said Minard. 

"Oh, nothing very great. He wants to be made a mem- 
ber of the municipal council. I know that Phellion, specu- 
lating upon the advantage of such a connection, intends to 
propose our poor friend as a candidate. Now you, perhaps, 
might find it advantageous to yourself to forestall him in 
this. Thuillier's nomination can be nothing but favorable 
to you — I mean to say agreeable — and he will fill his place 
very well in the council, where there are weaker members 
than he is. Besides, owing you so much for your support, 
he certainly will see through your eyes; he considers you 
one of the torchlights of the town." 

"My dear sir, 1 thank you," said Minard. "You are 
rendering me a service which I can scarcely value suffi- 
ciently and which proves to me — " 

"That I am not in love with these Phellions," answered 
la Peyrade, profiting by a moment's hesitation on the part 
of the mayor, afraid to express an opinion from which the 
barrister might conclude contempt of these same people. 
"I hate men who make capital of their integrity, who make 
fine sentiments their gold currency." 

"You know them well," said Minard, "those sycophants. 
As for that man, the last ten years of his life is explained 
by this bit of red ribbon," said the mayor, pointing to his 
rosette of the Legion. 



102 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"Take care!" said the barrister, "his son is in love with 
Celeste, and he holds the key of the fortress. ' ' 

"Yes, but my son has twelve thousand francs a year of 
his own." 

"Oh," said the barrister shrugging his shoulders, "Mad- 
emoiselle Brigitte said the other day that she looked for at 
least that from an aspirant for the hand of Celeste. And 
after all, before six months are over you will learn that 
Thuillier has landed property to the amount of forty thou- 
sand francs a year." 

"The devil! I almost suspected it!" answered the 
mayor. "Very well, he shall be a member of the general 
municipal council." 

"In any case do not mention my name to him," said the 
advocate of the poor, who now went up to Madame Phellion 
to make his bow. "Well, my dear lady, how have you 
managed ? ' ' 

"I waited until four o'clock, but the worthy man would 
not let me finish. He is too busy to accept such a position, 
and Monsieur Phellion read the letter in which Doctor Bian- 
chon thanked him for his kind intention, and said that, as 
far as he was concerned, his candidate was Monsieur Thuil- 
lier. He is using his influence in his favor, and begs my 
husband to do likewise." 

"And what did your excellent spouse say ?" 

"He answered: 'I have done my duty. I have not be- 
trayed my conscience, and now I am for Thuillier, heart 
and soul.' " 

'Well, then, everything is settled, " said la Peyrade; "for- 
get my visit, and claim all the credit of this idea for yourself." 

With this he went up to Madame Colleville, assuming a 
most respectful attitude. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 103 

"Madame," said he, "have the goodness, pray, to bring 
your good Colleville here. There is a surprise for Thuillier 
in the wind, and your husband must be taken into the 
secret. ' ' 

While la Peyrade was doing the artist with Colleville, 
and indulging in very witty pleasantries as he explained the 
matter of the candidature to him, Flavie overheard the fol- 
lowing conversation in the drawing-room, which made her 
ears burn — "I should like to know what Monsieur Colleville 
and la Peyrade are talking about to make them laugh so 
much?" Madame Thuillier asked in her silly fashion, look- 
ing out of the window. 

"They are talking nonsense, as men are in the habit of 
doing," answered Mademoiselle Thuillier, who often made 
attacks on the opposite sex through an instinct natural to 
old maids. 

"I cannot believe that," objected Phellion gravely, "for 
Monsieur de la Peyrade is one of the most virtuous young 
men I have ever met. You know what a high opinion I 
have of Felix. Well, I put them on the same plane, and 
even at that would like to see my son with a little more of 
Monsieur Theodose's piety." 

"He is, indeed, a man of great qualities, and will cer- 
tainly achieve something," observed Minard. "As for me, 
he has won my approval — I will not say my patronage." 

"He spends more money on lamp oil than on bread," 
said Dutocq; "I know that about him." 

"His mother, if he is still blessed with one, must be very 
proud of him," said Madame Phellion sententiously. 

"He is a real treasure to us," added Thuillier, "and if 
you only knew how modest he is! He never puts himself 
for ward. ' ' 



104 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"What I can answer for," Dutocq went on, "is that no 
young man has ever held himself up more nobly in poverty. 
And he has triumphed, but at the expense of suffering — 
which is plain enough." 

"Poor young man!" cried Zelie. "It hurts me to hear 
those things!" 

"One's secrets and one's money are safe in his hands," 
said Thuillier, "and that is the best thing one can say of a 
man these days." 

Just then Colleville and la Peyrade were returning from 
the garden the best of friends. N 

"Gentlemen," said Brigitte, "soup and the King must 
not wait. Give your arm to the ladies!" 

Five minutes after this joke — well worthy of the porter's 
lodge — Brigitte had the satisfaction of seeing her table sur- 
rounded with the principal characters of this drama, who, by 
the way, were all to be assembled in her house, with the 
exception of the horrible Oerizet. The portrait of the old 
bagmaker would perhaps be incomplete if the description of 
one of her best dinners were omitted. The physiognomy 
of the middle class cook in 1840 is moreover a necessary 
detail in the history of manners and morals, and clever 
housewives will read a lesson from it. No one makes empty 
bags for twenty years without the object of filling some of 
them. Now, Brigitte had the peculiarity of adding to her 
spirit of economy the sense of wise expenditure. Her rela- 
tive prodigality, when her brother or Celeste was in ques- 
tion, was the opposite pole to avarice. Indeed, she often 
complained of not being miserly enough. At her last 
dinner, she had related how after suffering agony for ten 
minutes she had finally given ten francs to a poor work- 
woman, whom she knew to be without food for two days. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 105 

'Nature," said she artlessly, "was stronger than rea- 



son." 



The beef soup was almost white, because even on an 
occasion of this kind she impressed it upon the cook to sup- 
ply a large quantity of soup, and then, as the beef would 
feed the family the next day and the day after, the less of 
it that went into the soup, the more succulent would it 
remain. The tureen was flanked by four dishes of tar- 
nished metal. At this dinner, afterward known as the can- 
didate's dinner, the first course consisted of two ducks with 
olives, with a large forcemeat pasty opposite, and an eel 
in sharp sauce with mince meat on endive to correspond 
with it. The central features of the second course was a 
majestic goose stuffed with chestnuts; a dish of corn salad 
adorned with disks of beet roots faced a tray of custards, 
and some sweet turnips offset a bowl of macaroni. This 
porter's dinner, intended for a festival banquet, had cost at 
most twenty francs, and the remains sufficed for the house- 
hold for the next two days following, Brigitte's comment 
being — "Heavens, how the money flies when you entertain! 
It is dreadful!" 

The table was lighted up by two atrocious silver-plated 
candlesticks, four branches to each, in which twinkled cheap 
candles known as the "Aurora" brand. The table linen 
was resplendent in its whiteness, and the old thread-pattern 
silvered plate was a part of the paternal inheritance, ac- 
quired during the revolution by Father Thuillier. Thus 
the affair matched the dining-room, the house, and the 
Thuilliers, who were never to rise above this standard of 
living. The Minards, the Collevilles, and la Peyrade ex- 
changed a few smiles betraying a community of sarcastic 
reflections. They alone knew of superior comforts, and the 



106 BALZAC'S WORKS 

Minards' acceptance of such an invitation was sufficient 
proof of ulterior designs. 

La Peyrade, sitting next to Flavie, whispered into her 
ear — "You see, these people want lessons in living. Up- 
starts that they are, they have the vices of the ancient no- 
bility without their elegance. What pleasure it is to play 
on them, as if they were a bass or a clarinet!" 

Flavie listened, smiling. 

While the plates were being cleared after the second 
course, Minard, fearful of being forestalled by Phellion, 
addressed himself to Thuillier with an important air — "My 
dear Thuillier, if I have come to your dinner it was be- 
cause I had a momentous communication to make, and one 
which does you so much honor that it must not be kept 
from your guests." 

Thuillier turned pale. 

"You have got the Cross for me!" he shouted, catching 
Theodose's eye, and trying to prove that he was not lacking 
in perspicacity. 

"You shall have it some day," answered the mayor, "but 
I mean something better than that just uow. The Cross is 
a favor depending upon the good opinion of a minister, 
while this is the question of an election due to the concur- 
rent sentiment of all your fellow citizens. In a word, a 
considerable number of the voters of your district have cast 
their choice upon you, and want to honor you with their 
confidence by deputing you to represent this district in the 
Council of Paris, which, as every one knows, is the general 
council of the Seine!" 

"Bravo!" called out Dutocq. 

Phellion now rose. 

"His honor the mayor has anticipated me," said he with 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 107 

emotion, "but it is so flattering for our friend to be the object 
of the eager attention of all good citizens at the same time, 
that I cannot complain of only being second in line, and 
besides, all respect to authority! (bowing elaborately to 
Minard). Yes, Monsieur Thuillier, several electors were 
thinking of offering you a mandate in the part of the dis- 
trict where my humble dwelling stands, and there is this 
especially in your favor, that you were pointed out to them 
by an illustrious man (great sensation), by a man in whom 
we wish to honor one of the most virtuous residents of this 
district, and who for twenty years was its father. I mean 
the deceased Monsieur Popinot, in his lifetime councillor 
of state and our representative in the municipal council of 
Paris. But his nephew, Doctor Bianchon, one of our great 
glories, has declined because of his absorbing professional 
duties, the post which seemed to devolve upon him. While 
thanking us for the compliment, he recommended to our 
suffrages the candidate of our respected mayor, as in his 
opinion the most capable by reason of the place he has 
lately rilled of exercising public functions." 

Upon which Phellion sat down, in the midst of murmurs 
of acclamation. 

"Thuillier, you may count on your old friend," said 
Colleville. 

At this moment the guests were all touched by the spec- 
tacle presented by Madame Thuillier and Brigitte. Brigitte, 
as pale as though she were about to faint, had tears of joy 
streaming down her cheeks, and Madame Thuillier, her eyes 
staring out of her head, looked thunderstruck. Of a sudden 
the old maid rushed out into the kitchen, crying out to 
Josephine — "Come down to the cellar, girl! We must 
have some of the wine behind the wood-pile." 



108 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"My friends," said Thuillier with a quavering voice, 
"this is the proudest day of my life! It is even more beau- 
tiful than the day of my election will be if I can bring my- 
self to accept the nomination of my fellow-citizens (voices, 
'Of course! of course!'), fori feel that thirty years in the 
civil service have left their mark upon me, and you will 
acknowledge that a man of honor must consult his strength 
and his capabilities before accepting a public office." 

"I expected no less of you, Monsieur Thuillier!" ex- 
claimed Phellion. "Excuse me! This is the first time in 
my life that I venture to interrupt a former superior, but 
there are circumstances — " 

"Accept! accept!" cried Zelie; "we want men like you 
to govern us!" 

"Resign yourself, sir!" said Dutocq, "and long live the 
future councillor! But we have nothing to drink." 

"Well, then, let it be understood," resumed Minard, 
"are you our candidate?" 

"You are expecting a great deal of me," said Thuillier. 

"Come, come!" exclaimed Colleville. "A man who has 
worked in the galleys of the Finance Department for thirty 
years is a treasure to the town!" 

"You are far too modest," said Minard the younger, 
"your talents are well known to us; they are a tradition 
in the Finance Department to-day." 

"Your blood be on your heads, then," cried Thuillier. 

"The King will be pleased with our choice, I can assure 
you," said Minard, puffing himself out. 

"Gentlemen," said la Peyrade, "the mayor's influence, 
unlimited in the district and immeasurable in our own cir- 
cle; the influence of Monsieur Phellion, the oracle of his 
battalion; the no less powerful influence of Monsieur Colle- 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 109 

ville, ascribable to urbanity and open conduct; the influence 
of our clerk of the court, also most efficacious; and the poor 
efforts that I can put form m my humble sphere of activity 
— these are our pledges of success. But success is not 
enough! We must- triumph, and to obtain that we must 
engage to observe the deepest discretion on the subject of 
these present demonstrations. Do not let us expose our 
friend Thuillier to the obloquy of his rivals! Do not let 
us surrender his name to public discussion, that modern 
harpy, which is but the speaking-tube of calumny and envy, 
which is the weapon of dastardly foes, which casts asper- 
sions on everything that is great, which sullies everything 
that is clean, which dishonors everything that is sacred! 
Let us do like the third party in the Chamber: let us be 
silent and vote!" 

"He speaks well," said Phellion to his neighbor Dutocq. 

"And he knows what he is talking about!" 

Minard's son was green and yellow with envy. 

"Well and truly spoken!" said Minard. 

"The motion is 'unanimously passed," said Colleville. 
"Gentlemen, we are men of honor; it is enough that we 
understand one another on this point." 

Mademoiselle Thuillier now appeared with her two ser- 
vants in her wake. The cellar key was stuck in her belt, 
and three bottles of champagne, three bottles of old Hermit- 
age, and a bottle of Malaga were put on the table, but with 
almost respectful care she was herself carrying a small bot- 
tle, which she put before her. In the midst of the hilarity 
caused by the abundance of good things, the fruits of grati- 
tude, and which the poor old maid in her delirium lavished 
with profusion, various dessert, dishes were brought in, piles 
of ligs and pyramids of oranges, preserves and sugared 



110 BALZAC'S WORKS 

fruits, from the depths of her cupboards, which under no 
other circumstances would have figured on her table. 

"Celeste, you shall have a bottle of my father's brandy, 
and you shall make us an orange salad!" cried she. "Mon- 
sieur Phellion, uncork the champagne; this bottle is for you 
three. Monsieur Dutocq, take this one. And here is one 
for you, Monsieur Oolleville ! You know how to make the 
corks fly!" 

The two girls distributed champagne glasses and other 
wine glasses, for Josephine brought up three more bottles 
of Bordeaux. "The year of the comet!" cried Thuillier. 
"Gentlemen, you have made my sister lose her head." 

"And this evening we will have punch and cakes," said 
she. "I have sent to the chemist's for tea. Heavens! if I 
had known there was going to be an election, I would have 
put on a turkey!" 

General laughter greeted this phrase. 

"Oh, we have a goose," said young Minard, laughing. 

"Barrels of good things!" exclaimed Madame Thuillier, 
as she saw that sugared chestnuts and meringues were about 
to be served. 

The glasses were full; the company were all looking at 
one another; a toast seemed to be in order, and la Peyrade 
said — "Gentlemen, let us drink to something sublime." 

Every one was astonished.- 

"Here is to Mademoiselle Brigitte!" 

They got up, clinked glasses, and chorused — "Long live 
Mademoiselle Thuillier!" 

Thus can the expression of general feeling produce spon- 
taneous enthusiasm. 

"Gentlemen," said Phellion, consulting a piece of paper, 
"here is to labor and its dignity in the person of our old 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 111 

friend, now one of the mayors of Paris — Monsieur Minard 
and his wife!" 

After five minutes of conversation, Thuillier got up, say- 
ing — "Gentlemen, to the King and the royal family. I add 
nothing. This toast says everything." 

"To my brother's election," said Mademoiselle Thuillier. 

"I am going to make you laugh," said la Peyrade into 
Flavie's ear, as he, too, rose. 

"To the ladies — the charming sex to which we owe so 
much happiness, to say nothing of our sisters or our wives!" 

This toast evoked general mirth, and Colleville, already 
in a very lively state, shouted — "You rascal, you stole my 
speech !" 

His worship the mayor then rose amid profound silence. 

"Gentlemen, here is to our institutions! From them 
spring the might and the majesty of dynastic France!" 

"It is my turn!" said Colleville, in the attitude of a 
gladiator. "Attention! Here's to friendship! Empty your 
glasses! Fill your glasses! Now to the fine arts, the flower 
of social delights! Empty your glasses! Fill your glasses! 
Here's to another feast like this the day after the election!" 

"What is that little bottle?" asked Dutocq of Mademoi- 
selle Thuillier. 

'That," said she, "is one of my three bottle of liqueur 
from Madame Amphoux; the second is for Celeste's wed- 
ding, and the last for the day when her first child is 
baptized." 

"My sister has almost lost her head," said Thuillier to 
Colleville. 

The dinner ended by a toast from Thuillier, prompted 
by Theodose, which was drunk in Malaga that made the 
glasses sparkle like rubies. 



112 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"Colleville has drunk to friendship ! As for me, I drink, 
in this generous wine, to my friends!" 

A warm hurrah greeted this sentiment, but, as Dutocq 
said to Theodose — "It is a crime to pour such Malaga down 
those vulgar throats." 

"Oh, if one could only imitate that, my friend!" ex- 
claimed the mistress of the house, making a noise with her 
glass as she sucked in the ardent Spanish wine. Zelie had 
arrived at the height of incandescence; she was terrifying. 

"Do you not think, sister," said Bngitte to Madame 
Thuillier, "that we might take coffee in the other room?" 

In acquiescence of Brigitte's suggestion, and in pretence 
of being mistress of the house, Madame Thuillier got up 
from the table. 

"Ah, you are a great magician," said Flavie to la Pey- 
rade, as she took his arm into the drawing-room. 

"And my only object is to bewitch you," he added, sig- 
nificantly pressing her hand to his lips behind the curtain 
of the bay window, whither he had conducted her. 

"Madame Phellion will play the piano," said Colleville; 
"everything must dance to-day — bottles, Brigitte's franc 
pieces, and our little girls! I am going for my clarinet." 
And he handed his empty cup to his wife, with a smile 
at seeing her on such good terms with Theodose. 

"What have you been doing to my husband?" asked 
Flavie of the seducer. 

"I told him of the scheme to make something of Thuil- 
lier, and I gave him a glimpse of the advantages of political 
influence, and the substantial benefits to be derived by both 
of you. Yes, Colleville and I are the best of friends. We 
shall be soon as good friends as he and Thuillier are, and 
perhaps even better, for I told him that Thuillier would 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 113 

burst with jealousy at seeing him with a rosette. There 
you see, dear angel, what a sincere passion can do!" 

"Yes, I admit that you are a very extraordinary man!" 

"Not at all. My smallest efforts and my greatest are 
reflections from the flame you have lighted in my soul ! I 
must be your son-in-law, so that we may never be separated. 
My wife — well, she will never be anything but a nurse for 
my children. But my divinity, my sublimity forever, will 
be yourself," he panted into her ear. 

"You are a very Satan!" said she in a sort of terror. 

"No, I am something of a poet, like all my countrymen. 
Bat come, be my Josephine. I shall go to see you to-mor- 
row at two o'clock. I have the most ardent desire to see 
your rooms, your furniture, the color of the hangings, and 
how everything is arranged about you. I want to admire 
the pearl in its shell!" 

He was clever enough to leave her upon this, without 
waiting for an answer. 

Madame Fron, Barniol by birth, had arrived with two 
boarders of seventeen, confided to her maternal care by 
families living in Bourbon and Martinique. Monsieur 
Pron, a teacher of rhetoric in a church school, was a type of 
the P hellion order, but instead of expanding on the surface 
in fine phrases and demonstrations, and of posing as a model, 
he was stiff and sententious. Monsieur and Madame Pron, 
the jewels of the Phellions' circle, received on Mondays. 
They were closely connected" with the Phellions through the 
Barniols. Although a schoolmaster, little Pron danced. 
The great reputation of the Lagrave Institution, to which 
Monsieur and Madame Phellion had been attached for 
twenty years, had been increased under the management 
of Mademoiselle Barniol, the senior and most able assistant 



114 BALZAC'S WORKS 

mistress. Monsieur Pron commanded great influence in 
the part of the district bounded by the Boulevard Mont 
Parnasse, the Luxembourg, and the Rue de Sevres. There- 
fore, as soon as his friend appeared, Phellion, without need- 
ing instructions, took him by the arm to initiate him into 
the Thuilliers' conspiracy, and after ten minutes of con- 
versation they both came to speak to Thuillier, when the 
embrasure of the window opposite Flavie's no doubt wit- 
nessed a trio as great, in its way, as the three Swiss patriots 
in "William Tell." 

Felix had gone over to Madame Thuillier, guessing that 
Celeste would soon be found at her side. This calculation 
was the more "successful as young Minard, who saw nothing 
in Celeste but a dowry, was not thus inspired, but was 
sipping his coffee in a political debate with Leudigeois, 
Barniol, and Dutocq. 

"Who* would not love Celeste?" said Felix to Madame 
Thuillier. "I shall kill myself with work for her, or I shall 
become a member of the Academy of Sciences, and make 
some great discovery to win her by the force of fame!" 

"Ah," said the poor woman to herself. "I ought to 
have had a quiet and gentle man of learning like him for a 
husband! But Thou, my Father in heaven, wouldst not 
have it so! But unite and protect these two children, who 
are made for one another!" 

She remained pensive as she listened to the orgy of noise 
made by her sister-in-law, a regular dray horse for work, 
who was now helping her two servants to clear the room 
for the dancers. She was shouting like a ship's captain on 
his bridge preparing for a battle: "Have you any more 
gooseberry syrup ? Go out for some barley water! There 
are not enough glasses! Get six more bottles of claret! 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 115 

Take care the porter takes none! Caroline, my girl, stay 
at the sideboard — you shall have a slice of ham if the 
dancing goes on after one o'clock. No waste! Keep your 
eyes open! Pass me the broom! Fill the lamps, and let 
me have no accidents! Dress the sideboard with the re- 
mains of the dessert! Fancy thinking of my sister helping! 
I do not know what she can be about, that slow coach! 
Lord, how she dawdles ! Here, take these chairs out of the 
way ! ' ' 

The room was full of Barniols, Collevilles, Leudigeois, 
Phellions, and all who had come for the hop. 

"Are you ready, Brigitte?" asked Colleville, breaking 
into the dining-room. "They will be packed as close as 
herrings in your drawing-room. Cardot and his family 
have just arrived with young Vinet, the deputy prose- 
cutor. Shall we push the piano in here, from the drawing- 
room, eh ?" 

And he gave the signal to begin by tooting a few notes 
on his clarinet, these premonitory sounds being hailed 
with loud glee in the drawing-room. 

It would be superfluous to describe a ball of this kind. 
The dresses, faces, the conversation — all were in harmony 
with the character of the refreshments — served on shabby 
trays, the worse for wear, on which were passed about 
glasses of wine and water, and of sugared water. The 
trays bearing the liqueurs and syrup appeared only at in- 
frequent intervals. There were five card-tables, twenty- 
five players, and eighteen couples of dancers. At one in 
the morning, Mademoiselle Brigitte, Madame Thuillier, and 
Felix's parents indulged in a wild square dance, commonly 
called the "Boulangere," in which Dutocq figured with his 
head veiled, like a Kabyle chief. The servants waiting for 



116 BALZAC'S WORKS 

their masters, and those belonging to the house, looked on; 
and as this interminable square dance lasted an hour, they 
wanted to hoist Brigitte on their shoulders in triumph when 
she announced supper, but she found it expedient to put 
twelve bottles of old Burgundy out of sight. All enjoyed 
themselves so much, old as well as young, that Thuillier 
was able to say — "Well, this morning we had no notion of 
such a fine festivity to-night!" 

"Nothing is more enjoyable," said the notary Cardot, 
"than these improvised dances. Don't talk to me of balls, 
to which every one comes dressed up to the eyes!" 

This opinion is an axiom with the middle class. 

The "Boulangere" over, Theodose took Dutocq to the 
sideboard, where he helped himeslf to a slice of tongue, 
saying to him — "Let us be off now, for we must be at 
Oerizet's very early to-morrow to get the information we 
want, which Cerizet will have found difficult enough to 
obtain." 

"Why difficult ?" asked Dutocq, bringing his piece of 
tongue into the drawing room. 

"What? Don't you know the laws?" 

"I know enough to know that this is a dangerous enter- 
prise. If the notary wants the house, and we try to spirit 
it away from him, there are means by which he can beat our 
game, as he can assume the part of a creditor. According 
to present laws regulating mortgages, when a house is sold 
by order of one of the creditors, and if the price fixed by 
arbitration is insufficient to pay all the creditors, they have 
the right to sell by auction. The notary will not be likely 
to make the same mistake twice." 

"Well," said ia Peyrade, "this phase of the question 
certainly deserves attention." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 117 

"So be it," said the clerk of the court; "let us go and 
see Cerizet." 

"This has been one of the happiest days of our lives," 
said Brigitte, when she was left alone with her brother at 
half-past two in the morning in the deserted drawing-room. 
"How glorious to be chosen by your fellow-citizens!" 

"Make no mistake about it, Brigitte, we owe it all to 
one man." 

"To whom?" 

"To our friend la Peyrade." 

It was not on Monday, but on Tuesday, that Dutocq and 
Theodose went to see Cerizet, the clerk of the court having 
observed that Cerizet went away for Sunday and Monday, 
because of the entire absence of customers on those two 
days, on which the masses give themselves up to dissipation. 

The coat with the frogs on it had already given a hint of 
the sort of hovel this shady member of society might in- 
habit. Over the door of a rickety entry swung a dilapi- 
dated lamp on which was painted the words: "Lodgings 
by the Night." The network of iron-crossed clamps on 
the walls attested the tumble-down condition of the estab- 
lishment, whose proprietor was a wine merchant, and who 
besides the ground floor inhabited the next. The widow 
Poiret kept furnished rooms on the first, second, and third 
stories for workmen and the poorest class of students. 
Cerizet occupied a room on the ground floor and another 
on the first, to which he gained access by a private stair. 
The window of the upper rooms looked out on a filthy 
courtyard from which arose foul odors. Cerizet paid forty 
francs a month for his lunch and dinner to the widow. He 
had thus got into the good graces of the landlady by being 
her boarder, and had made a friend of the wine merchant 



118 BALZAC'S WORKS 

by regularly throwing an enormous number of customers in 
bis way, even before daybreak. For Cadenet's shop opened 
before C^rizet's office, who began operations on Tuesday 
mornings, at three in the summer and at five in the winter. 

The opening of the central market, for which many of 
his clients, male and female, were bound, was the hour that 
regulated the hours of his horrible business. And Cadenet, 
in consideration of the clientage due to Cerizet, let him 
have his two rooms for eighty francs a year, and had signed 
a lease for twelve years, which Cerizet was privileged to 
cancel at pleasure without compensation, at three months' 
notice. Cadenet every day contributed an excellent bottle 
of wine for the dinner of this valuable tenant, and when- 
ever Cerizet was without funds, he had only to say to his 
friend: "Cadenet, loan me a hundred crowns." But he 
always paid him back faithfully. 

It was said that Cadenet knew that the widow Poiret 
had intrusted two thousand francs to Cerizet, which was, 
perhaps, an explanation of his prosperity since the day when 
he had set up as a money-lender with his last thousand- 
franc note and Dutocq's patronage. 

The short-loan usurer was in perfect safety in this re- 
treat, where he might, if necessary, get help from strong 
hands. On some mornings there were not less than sixty 
to eighty persons, women as well as men, either at the wine 
merchant's or in the hall, or sitting on the steps, or else in 
the office, where the suspicious Cerizet never admitted more 
than six at a time. Every one was interviewed in order, for 
his rule was "first come, first served." CeVizet was the ob- 
ject of revilement on Sunday mornings, when accounts had 
to be settled, and they cursed him on Saturdays, when they 
were toiling to refund principal and interest. But he was 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 119 

Providence, he was the Deity, from Tuesday to Friday of 
every week. Cerizet had a way of endearing himself to his 
customers by his jovial sallies of wit in their own language, 
though he always took the precaution of hiding the cash for 
his morning's transactions in the cushion of the chair he sat 
on, of taking out no more than one hundred francs at a time 
— which he put into his trousers pockets — and of never 
drawing upon his reserve, excepting between customers 
and behind closed doors. In spite of this, he had noth- 
ing to fear from all these desperates, who came humbly 
to the fountain of gold. 

The short-loan system, as practiced by Cerizet, is not, 
all things considered, such a cruel evil as the pawnshop. 
Cerizet paid over ten francs on Tuesday on condition of 
receiving twelve on Sunday morning. In five weeks he 
thus doubled his capital, and his transactions were very 
many. His good nature consisted in being occasionally 
satisfied with eleven francs and a half, and allowing the 
balance to stand over. When he gave a small fruit vender 
fifty francs or sixty, he ran some risks, or if he loaned 
one hundred francs for one hundred and twenty to a peat- 
seller. 

Theodose and Dutocq, coming down the street, saw a 
mob of men and women, and by the light of the wine mer- 
chant's lamps were alarmed at perceiving this crowd of 
flushed, begrimed faces, dejected from sheer misery, ema- 
ciated or scarred, withered or wine-sodden; some of them 
threatening, others resigned; some jeering, some ironical, 
some vacuous; all peering from such appalling rags as 
no painter could exaggerate, even in his most extravagant 
mood. 

"I shall be recognized," said Theodose, dragging Dutocq 



120 BALZAC'S WORKS 

away; "we have made a mistake to interrupt him at his 
business." 

"The more especially as we did not think that Claparon 
was asleep in bed, and his house arrangements are not 
known to us. But stay, if there are difficulties in your 
way, there are none in mine; I might have to speak to 
my copyist, you see, and ask him to come to dinner because 
there is a session at court to-day, and there will be no time 
for lunch. We can meet at the Cheval Rouge at seven 
o'clock." 

So Dutocq went alone into the middle of this congress 
of beggars, and he heard his name repeated on all sides, for 
he could scarcely fail to be recognized by some erstwhile 
criminal, just as Theodose would have met some of his cli- 
ents there. They made room for the clerk of the court, a 
person of not less authority than the magistrate himself. 
He saw the women sitting on the steps, a horrible display 
— many of them being young, pale and sick, and wearing 
the sorriest of garments. Dutocq was almost asphyxiated 
when he opened the door of the room where sixty unsavory 
people had already been interviewed. Deep silence pre- 
vailed. Dutocq found his copyist clad in a waistcoat of 
yellow leather like a policeman's gloves, and over it a 
squalid vest of knitted wool. It may be imagined what 
this unhealthy face looked like above such a costume, the 
framework of the picture being completed by an untidy 
handkerchief tied round his head, the whole scene illumi- 
nated by a single tallow candle. 

"I cannot deal with you on those terms, Papa Lanti 
meche," Cerizet was saying to a tall old man, who looked 
about seventy years old and who was standing before him, 
red woollen cap in hand, his skin showing under a torn 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 121 

blouse. "Tell me what you want to do with the money. 
A hundred francs even on condition of paying back one 
hundred and twenty, that's different from letting a dog 
loose in a church !" 

The five other customers present, of whom one was knit- 
ting and another suckling her baby, burst out laughing. 

When he set eyes upon Dutocq, Cerizet rose respectfully 
and went toward him, as he added: "You had better take 
time to think it over; because, you see, I am doubtful about 
loaning a sum of one hundred francs to a locksmith's man." 

"But I have an invention!" cried the old workman. 

"An invention and one hundred francs! You do not 
,< now the law; you want two thousand francs," said Dutocq. 
"And /ou must have patronage." 

"That is true," said Cerizet, who often relied on acci- 
dents of this kind. "Come back to-morrow morning at six, 
Papa Lantimeche, and we will discuss the matter again. 
It is not proper to talk inventions before others." 

"If there is anything in it, half shares!" said Dutocq 
to the money-lender after the old man had left. 

"Why did you get up so early to come here to tell me 
that ?" asked the suspicious Cerizet, resenting the half shares. 
"You would have seen me at your office." And he looked 
slyly at Dutocq, who, while telling him the truth about 
Claparon and the urgency of Theodose's affair, seemed to 
be entangling himself. 

"Nevertheless, you would have seen me this morning at 
the office," answered Cerizet again, as he walked to the door 
with Dutocq. 

"There is a man," said he going back to his seat, "who 
seems to me to have blown out his own lantern so that I may 
not see. Very well, wc can give up our copyist's place." 

(F)— Vol. 16 



122 BALZAC'S WORKS 

It is the less necessary to detail the interview of the three 
associates, as the arrangements made corresponded to the 
confidences made Mademoiselle Thuillier by Theodose, al- 
though we may remark that la Peyrade's cleverness almost 
startled Cerizet and Dutocq. At this conference, the poor 
people's banker conceived the notion of getting out of a 
game which he was playing against such strong players. 
To win at any cost and get the better of the sharpest 
minds, even by cheating, is an inspiration of vanity pe- 
culiar to lovers of the green cloth. Hence the terrible 
blow that la Peyrade was to be dealt. 

The day after the meeting, la Peyrade was dining with 
the Thuilliers, and under the transparent pretext of a visit 
to Madame de Saint-Foudrille, the wife of the distinguished 
man of science, Thuillier carried off his wife, leaving TheV 
dose with Brigitte. Neither Thuillier, nor his sister, nor 
Theodose was deceived by this comedy, and the old dandy 
of the Empire dignified this performance with the name of 
"diplomacy." 

"Has your brother spoken to you?" began la Peyrade. 

"No, he only told me that you wished to speak to me." 

"Yes, Mademoiselle, because you are the man of the 
family; but after turning the matter over thoroughly in my 
mind, I see that there is a great deal of danger for me in this 
affair, and one only compromises one's self for one's rela- 
tives. It is a question of a whole fortune, thirty to forty 
thousand francs of income, without any speculation or risks 
■ — a solid investment! The necessity of putting a fortune 
into Thuillier's hands dazzled me from the first. It was a 
fascinating idea, and, as I told him, for any one, but a fool 
would ask himself: 'What is his object in being so kind?' 
— for, as I told him, by working for him, 1 flattered myself 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 123 

that I was working for my own good too. If he wants to be 
deputy, two things are absolutely imperative: to pay the 
tax rate and to get his name noised about. If I carry my 
devotion so far as to help him write a book on Public 
Credit, or on any other subject, I must think just as much 
of his cash fortune. Of course it would be absurd of you 
to give him this house." 

"Give my brother this house? Why, I would transfer 
it to his name to-morrow!" cried Brigitte. "You do not 
know me. But this affair, now," said Brigitte, "what is 
the difficulty about it?" 

"Mademoiselle, the difficulties are in my conscience, and 
I certainly cannot serve you without consulting my father 
confessor. But since you desire it, I will outline the thing 
very plainly, and pray observe that I am risking my good 
name in telling you, since I owe these secrets to my po- 
sition as a lawyer. So, you see that we shall be commit- 
ting a species of high treason together! A Paris notary 
went into partnership with an architect, and they bought 
land and built on it. Owing to mistakes in their calcula- 
tions, they failed. Among the houses put up by this illicit 
partnership — for notaries are not allowed to go into business 
— there is one, which being unfinished has suffered such de- 
preciation that it will be sold for a hundred thousand francs 
at the most, although the land and the expense of building 
amounted to four hundred thousand francs. As nothing but 
the interior remains to be completed, no greater outlay than 
fifty thousand francs would be necessary for this purpose. 
Now, because of its situation, the house will yield more 
than forty thousand francs a year in rent, taxes paid. But 
there is this obstacle: the notary has reserved this share of 
the cake for himself, and he has a friend acting for him 



124 BALZAC'S WORKS 

as a creditor demanding the sale of the property by the as- 
signees. There was no lawsuit, as that would have been 
too expensive; the sale is to be voluntary." 

"That is done in trade, I know!" said Brigitte eagerly. 

"True, Mademoiselle, if we can catch this slippery 
notary; but it may be very difficult to catch him again. 
When you buy landed property, if those who have loaned 
money on it are afraid of losing it, because of a low price, 
they are entitled after a certain lapse of time to raise the 
price by offering more themselves, and thus they become 
owners of the property. If this intending purchaser cannot 
be held off until after the time allowed for raising the bid, 
some new scheme must be found in place of the first. But 
would such a transaction be quite legal ? Would one be 
justified in lending one's self to it for the benefit of the 
family one hopes to belong to ? That is what I have been 
asking myself for three days." 

Brigitte, it must be confessed, was at a loss what to say, 
and Theodose then played his last card: "Take the night to 
think it over; to-morrow we will talk about it again." 

"Listen, my dear boy," said Brigitte, looking at the 
barrister almost amorously, "the first thing is to see the 
house. Where is it?" 

"In the neighb6rhood of the Madeleine. In ten years 
that will be the heart of Paris! The house can without 
doubt be finished by the end of this year, and tenants can 
be taken in toward the middle of next year." 

"Shall we go to-morrow ?" 

"My lovely aunt, I am at your orders." 

"Hush, never call me that in public. As to the busi 
ness affair," she resumed, "we cannot come to a decision 
without seeing the house." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 125 

"It has six floors, nine front windows, a very fine court- 
yard, four shops, and it stands on a corner lot. Oh, the 
notary made no mistake about it, you may be sure! But 
let any political tempest rise, and down go securities! In 
your place, I would sell everything that Madame Thuillier 
owns, and all that you own, in the public funds, so as to 
buy this splendid property for Thuillier." 

Brigitte was licking her lips. She saw a way of keeping 
her own capital, and of enriching her brother at the expense 
of Madame Thuillier. 

"My brother is right," said she to Theodose, "you 
are a man in a thousand, and you will certainly do great 
things." 

"Ah, but he will always be in front of me!" answered 
Theodose with touching simplicity. 

"You will be one of the family," said she. 

"There may be opposition," replied Theodose; "Ma- 
dame Thuillier is rather silly, and does not like me." 

"Oh, we shall see about that!" cried Brigitte. "Let us 
make the bargain if it is feasible, and do you leave your 
interests in my hands." 

"Thuillier as a member of the municipal council, owning 
a house, let for at least forty thousand francs, having earned 
the Cross of the Legion of Honor, the author of an impor- 
tant and serious political work — Thuillier will certainly be 
elected deputy at one of the coming elections. But between 
ourselves, my dear little aunt, such devotion is only possi- 
ble to one's own father-in-law." 

"You are right." 

"Although I have no fortune, I shall have doubled 
yours, and if this affair goes off quietly I shall look for 
more like it." 



126 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"However, before seeing the house," said Mademoiselle 
Thuillier, "I can give no decided answer." 

"Well, then, take a carriage to-morrow, and we will go 
to see it. I will bring a ticket to-morrow morning, which 
will allow us into the building." 

"To-morrow, then, at noon," answered Brigitte, putting 
out her hand to Theodose, who deposited upon it the most 
tender and the most respectful kiss that Brigitte had ever 
received. 

"Good-by, my boy!" said she when he was at the door. 

She rang for her servant, to whom she said — "Josephine, 
go to Madame Colleville at once, and ask her to come here 
to see me." 

A quarter of an hour later Flavie entered Brigitte's 
drawing-room, where she was walking up and down in a 
state of tremendous excitement. 

"My dear little friend, I want you to do me a very great 
service in a matter that also concerns our Celeste. Y"ou 
know Tullia, the dancer at the Opera? My brother used to 
talk my ears full about her." 

"Yes, my dear, but she is a dancer no longer. She is 
Madame la Comtesse de Bruel. Her husband is a peer of 
France. ' ' 

"Are you still friends?" 

"We do not see each other now." 

"Well, I happen to know that Chaffaroux, the rich con- 
tractor, is her uncle," said the old maid. "He is old, and 
he is wealthy. Go to your former friend, and get a few lines 
to her uncle, saying that he can render her a great service 
by giving his advice on a matter which you will consult 
him about. We shall then catch him at home to-morrow 
at one o'clock. But the niece must enjoin secrecy upon her 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 127 

uncle. Our dear Celeste shall be a millionnairess, and from 
my hands she shall have a husband who will put her on a 
pinnacle." 

"You want me to tell you the first letter of his name?" 

"Why, is it— ?" 

"The'odose de la Peyrade! You are right; he is a man 
who with the support of a woman like you may become a 
cabinet minister." 

"God himself has sent him to our house," said the old 
maid. 

Monsieur and Madame Thuillier returned just then. 

Five days after, in the month of April, the writ sum- 
moning the electors to nominate a member of the municipal 
council on the twentieth of the same month was printed in 
the "Moniteur, " and posted about Paris. Brigitte was in 
the best of humor, having been able to verify Theodose's 
statements. The house he had described was examined 
from top to bottom by Chaffaroux, and pronounced by him 
to be a marvel of the builder's craft; poor Grindot, the 
architect in charge of the notary's affairs and Claparon's, 
supposed he was working for the contractor; Madame de 
Bruel's uncle, believing his niece's interests to be involved, 
had said that he would finish the house with thirty thousand 
francs, and so for a week la Peyrade had been Brigitte's 
divinity. She demonstrated to him by the most innocently 
iniquitous arguments that fortunes must be pounced upon 
when and wherever they appeared. 

'Well, if there is any wrong in it," said she to him in 
the garden, "you can confess it as a sin." 

"Come, come!" cried Thuillier, "one's first duty is to 
one's relatives!" 

"That is what I shall do,' answered la Peyrade in an 



128 BALZAC'S WORKS 

intense tone, "but on conditions to be named by myself. 
In marrying Celeste, I do not want to be reproached with 
greed, with cupidity; if you heap remorse upon me, at least 
suffer me to remain what I am in the eyes of the public. 
Give no more to Celeste, my dear old fellow, than the re- 
version of the house I am going to get you." 

"That is fair enough." 

"Do not rob yourself," Theodose went on; "and let my 
dear little aunt lose nothing by the marriage contract. Put 
the rest of your available funds in Madame Thuillier's 
name in government bonds, and let her do what she likes 
with them. We shall all live together, and I will undertake 
to make my own fortune, once relieved from anxiety as to 
the future." 

"That suits me," exclaimed Thuillier. "Those are the 
words of an honest man." 

"Let me kiss you on the forehead, my dear child," said 
Mademoiselle Thuillier. "But as of course there must be 
a dowry, we shall settle sixty thousand francs upon Celeste." 

"As pin money," added la Peyrade. 

"We are honorable persons, all three of us!" cried 
Thuillier. "It is understood, then, you manage the busi- 
ness of the house for us, we write my political work to 
gether, and you bestir yourself to get the Cross for me!" 

The thirtieth of April, Thuillier was proclaimed member 
of the general council of the department of the Seine, by an 
overwhelming majority. The first of May, Thuillier joined 
the body of councillors to go to the Tuileries, to congratu- 
late the King on his birthday, and he came back radiant. 
He was following in the wake of Minard. 

Ten days later, a yellow placard advertised the voluntary 
sale of the house, the upset pnce to be put at seventy five 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 129 

thousand francs, final adjudication to take place at the end 
of July. In this connection, an agreement was come to be- 
tween Claparon and Cerizet, by which Cerizet guaranteed 
the sum of fifteen thousand francs (verbally, of course) to 
Claparon, in case he should put oft' the notary beyond the 
date allowable for a higher bid. Mademoiselle, informed of 
this by Theodose, willingl}' adhered to the clause of secrecy, 
fully understanding that the authors of this amiable treason 
must be paid. The amount was to pass through the hands 
of the worthy barrister. Claparon had a midnight meeting 
with his accomplice, the notary, whose official place and 
custom, though put up for sale by edict of the Paris 
notaries' Court of Discipline, had not been disposed of. 

This young man, successor to Leopold Hannequin, had 
tried to run to a fortune, instead of walking there. He still 
saw other prospects and thought he could set everything 
straight. At this interview he had gone as far as ten thou- 
sand francs to buy security for himself in this dirty business. 
He was only to pay the money over to Claparon after the 
delivery of a counter-deed signed by the purchaser. The 
notary knew that this was all the capital at Claparon's dis- 
posal to found another fortune with, and so he thought he 
held him. "Who else in all Paris would give me such a 
commission for such a piece of business," said Claparon to 
him with assumed innocence. "You need not stay awake at 
night. I shall have an ostensible purchaser, one of those 
men of honor too stupid to have ideas like yours. He is a 
retired government clerk. You will hand him the money 
to be paid over, and he will sign his name to the counter- 
deed." 

When the notary had plainly shown Claparon that he 
could only get ten thousand francs out of him, Cerizet 



130 BALZAC'S WORKS 

ottered his old associate twelve thousand, and then asked 
fifteen thousand of Theodose, with the private reservation 
of only making over twelve thousand to Claparon. All the 
aforesaid transactions between these four men were seasoned 
with the handsomest speeches about sentiment and integrity, 
about everything that men owed one another who had cast 
in their lot together. While these submarine labors were 
in process, to the ultimate advantage of Thuillier, whom 
Theodose informed of them with manifestations of profound 
disgust for such swindling, the two friends were together 
considering the great political work to be published, and 
the member of the general municipal council was gaining 
the conviction that he - never would come to anything with- 
out this man of genius. He was day by day more forcibly 
impressed with the necessity of making him his son-in-law. 
And so, in May, Theodose was dining four times a week 
with his "dear old friend." Theodose was now lord su- 
preme in this family, and that with the approbation of all 
their friends. 

Meanwhile, Felix P hellion was giving young Colleville 
lessons with praiseworthy regularity and devotion. He sac- 
rificed his time cheerfully, believing that he was working 
for his future family. In recognition of his pains, and by 
the advice of Theodose, the young professor was invited to 
dine on Thursdays at the Collevilles', on which occasions the 
barrister was never absent. Flavie would stitch a purse, or 
a pair of slippers, or a cigar case, for the fortunate young 
man, who would exclaim — "I am more than rewarded, Ma- 
dame, by being useful to you!" 

"We are not rich," Colleville would reply, "but, thunder 
and lightning! we are not ungrateful!" 

Phellion rubbed his hands at hearing his son's accounts 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 131 

of these dinners, and he already saw his dear, his noble 
Felix married to Celeste. 

However, the fonder Celeste grew of Felix, the more 
serious and reserved did she become with him, especially 
as her mother had one day sermonized her on the subject 
and had said — "Do not encourage young Phellion, my dear 
daughter. Neither your father nor myself can dispose of 
your hand. There are your prospects to be considered, and 
it is much less important to please a penniless schoolmaster 
than to keep in the affection of Mademoiselle Brigitte and 
your godfather. If you do not want to kill your mother, 
my dear — yes, kill me — obey me implicitly in this matter, 
and remember that, after all, we desire your happiness above 
everything else." 

As the final adjudication was announced for the end of 
July, toward the end of June Th6odose recommended 
Brigitte to hold herself in readiness, and she therefore sold 
all her sister-in-law's public securities and her own. The 
crisis resulting from the treaty of the four great Powers, a 
signal insult to France, is a historical fact, though it must 
be recollected that from July until the end of August 
French bonds, owing to a possibility of war rather too 
ardently championed by Monsieur Thiers, depreciated by 
twenty francs, and three per cents fell to sixty. But this 
was not all. The financial panic had a most disastrous effect 
upon real property in Paris, and all legal sales brought ex- 
tremely low prices. This circumstance exalted Theodose to 
the rank of a prophet and of a great genius in the eyes of 
Brigitte and Thuillier, to whom the house was finally ad- 
judged for the sum of seventy-five thousand francs. The 
notary implicated in this political disaster, and whose place 
and custom were now sold, found himself obliged to go into 



132 BALZAC'S WORKS 

the country for a few days; but he kept Claparon's ten thou- 
sand francs on his person. On the strength of advice from 
Theodose, Thuillier came to an agreement with Grindot, 
who thought he would be doing something for the notary if 
he finished the house, and as idle workmen abounded during 
this period of financial depression, the architect was able to 
finish his pet building at very small cost. 

"For twenty-five thousand francs he will gild four 
rooms!" explained Theodose, who insisted that the bar- 
gam should be in writing, and that fifty thousand francs 
should be substituted for twenty-five thousand. This pur- 
chase increased Thuillier's importance tenfold. As for the 
notary, he had lost his head in the storm of political events, 
which had burst out like a tornado on a fine summer's day. 
Sure of his position, relying on the many services rendered, 
and having a hold upon Thuillier in the work they were 
writing together, but chiefly because he was admired by 
Brigitte on account of his secrecy — for he had never made 
the slightest allusion to his own straitened circumstances, 
and never talked about money — Theodose was now assum- 
ing a rather less servile demeanor than in the past. Brigitte 
and Thuillier would say to him — "Nothing can rob you of 
our esteem. You are to feel quite at home here. The opin- 
ion of Minard and Phellion, of which you seem to stand in 
awe, is of no more consequence to us than a line by Victor 
Hugo. So let them talk, and hold your head up!" 

"But we still want them for Thuillier's election to the 
Chamber," said Theodose. "Follow my advice.— You be- 
lieve in it, do you not? — When the house is really yours, 
you will have bought it for nothing, for you can buy three 
per cents at sixty francs in Madame Thuillier's name, so as 
to make good the whole of her fortune. Only wait for the 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 133 

expiration of the term for bidding, and have fifteen thousand 
francs ready for our thieves." 

Brigitte did not tarry; she summoned all her resources 
into action, with the exception of one hundred and twenty 
thousand francs. 

"We can hold our own with the Minards now!" she 
exulted. 

"We will not sing victory yet," interjected Theodose. 
"The legal term of expiry still extends over eight days. I 
have attended to your affairs, but my own are somewhat 
untidy." 

"My dear boy, remember that you have friends!" cried 
Brigitte, "and that whenever you want twenty- five louis, 
you can always rind them here!" 

At this Theodose exchanged a smile with Thuillier, who 
took him outside, and said — "Excuse my poor sister, she 
sees the world through the eye of a needle; but if ever you 
want twenty-five thousand francs I will loan them to you — 
out of my first rents." 

"Thuillier, the rope is around my neck," said Theodose. 
"Since taking my barrister's degree, I have signed prom- 
issory notes — but, not a word!" added Theodose, himself 
startled at having allowed this secret to escape him. "I am 
at the mercy of scoundrels — I want to give them a Roland 
lor an Oliver!" 

But the disclosure of his secret would serve Theodose in 
two ways. Thuillier would be put to the test, and a terrible 
blow might be averted which was threatened by the sinister 
forces long hovering about him, and conspiring against him. 
A few words will explain his direful situation. 

In the extreme destitution in which he had been living, 
no one but Cerizet had ever come to see him in the garret 



134 BALZAC'S WORKS 

where, for want of clothes, he was lying in bed. He had 
only one shirt left. For three days he had been living on 
bread, which he cut sparingly, saying to himself— "What 
next?" Just at that time his former patron appeared from 
prison, whence he had been pardoned. It is unnecessary to 
record the schemes concocted by these two men before the 
wood fire, one covered with his landlady's counterpane, and 
the other with his own infamy. The next day, Cerizet, who 
in the morning had met Dutocq, brought Theodose a pair of 
trousers, a waistcoat, a coat, a hat, and boots, and took him 
out to dinner. The Provencal ate half of a meal that cost 
forty-seven francs. At dessert, between two glasses of wine, 
Cerizet said to his friend— "Will you sign bills of exchange 
for me to the amount of fifty thousand francs in your capac- 
ity as barrister?" 

"You would not make live thousand francs out of it," 
answered Theodose. 

"That is no affair of yours. You will pay the whole 
amount. It will be our share — the other man's and mine 
— in transactions by which you have nothing to lose, but in 
which you figure as a barrister and gain a good clientage, 
and the hand of a girl worth at least twenty to thirty thou- 
sand francs a year. Neither Dutocq nor I can marry her, so 
we will equip you, feed you, lodge you, put you on your 
feet in fact. But we must have a guarantee. I am not say- 
ing this for myself, as I know you, but for the other gentle- 
man, for whom I shall act, and sign my name. We will 
equip you like a Corsair, I tell you, to sail after the galleons! 
If we do not capture that dowry, we shall take another tack. 
Between ourselves, we need not go to work too delicately in 
this thing — that's plain enough. We will give you full 
instructions, as the affair must be carried on with leisure. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 135 

There's plenty of pelf in it! — Here, I have some postage 
stamps. 1 ' 

"Waiter — pen and ink,'" said Theodose. 

"You are the sort I like to see!" exclaimed Dutocq. 

"Sign, 'Theodose de la Peyrade,' and write 'barrister, 
Rue Saint-Dominique-d'Enfer, under the words 'accepted for 
ten thousand francs.' For we shall date it, and prosecute 
you — quietly of course — so as to have a hold upon you. 
Shipowners must have some security while the captain 
and the brig are at sea." 

The day after the note matured, the bailiffs of the justice 
of the peace rendered Cerizet the service of taking secret pro- 
ceedings. He went to see the barrister at night, and every- 
thing was settled without the least publicity. The Com- 
mercial Court passes a hundred judgments of that sort at 
every session. The strict regulations of the Paris barristers' 
Court of Discipline are well known. This body and the so- 
ciety of attorneys visit derelictions of their members very 
severely. A barrister sent to the debtor's prison at Clichy 
would be erased from the roll. Cerizet, upon the advice of 
Dutocq, had taken the only course against their dummy 
which could assure them twenty- five thousand each out of 
Celeste's dowry. The'odose, in signing these deeds, had 
seen no further than the certainty of daily bread and but- 
ter. But as the horizon cleared, and as, through playing 
his part well, he saw himself rise step by step up the social 
ladder, he reviewed the possibilities of getting rid of his 
two associates. And when he asked Thuillier for twenty-five 
thousand francs, he was hoping to redeem his bills from 
Cerizet at fifty per cent. 

Unfortunately, disgraceful speculations of this kind are 
not exceptional. Too many of them occur in Paris under 



136 BALZAC'S WORKS 

thin disguises to be passed over by a historian giving a 
faithful and complete picture of society. Dutocq, an ac- 
complished libertine, still owed fifteen thousand francs on 
account of his legal connection, in which he had bought 
an interest, and he hoped to lengthen his lease to the end 
of 1840. Up to now, none of these three worthies had 
budged or growled; each knew his own strength, and the 
danger that threatened him. All were equally suspicious, 
equally observant, equally trustful of the others (in appear- 
ance), equally silent or watchful when mutual misgivings 
were expressed by play of feature or word of mouth. For 
two months especially, la Peyrade's position had been ac- 
quiring the strength of an independent fortress. Dutocq 
and Cerizet had set their train of powder, and the fuse 
was always lighted; but the wind might blow it out, or 
the devil might wet the powder. 

When wild beasts are about to take their feed, they 
always seem the most dangerous, and that moment was 
approaching for these three hungry tigers. Cerizet would 
occasionally say to Theodose — in that significant revolu- 
tionary tone, which our kings have heard twice in this 
century — "1 have made you King, and 1 am nothing. Not 
to be everything is to be nothing." 

A grain of envy was increasing to the dimensions of an 
avalanche in Cerizet. Dutocq expected to find himself at the 
mercy of his now wealthy copyist. Theodose would have 
liked to burn his two partners and their documents in two 
fires. All three studiously concealed their thoughts from 
each other, so as not to have them guessed. Theodose led 
a life of treble hell, as he thought of his cards, his game, 
and his prospects. His confession to Thuillier was a cry 
of despair; he had plumbed the depth of that middle class 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 137 

pocket, and had only hauled out twenty- five thousand 
francs. 

"And," said he to himself arriving at his house, ''per- 
haps another month will see the end." 

He conceived a violent hatred for the Thuilliers, but he 
held the old dandy by a harpoon that had caught in his 
vanity, when he proposed collaboration in a volume en- 
titled "On Taxation and Liquidation." 

This is how Claparon and Cerizet had proceeded with the 
notary two days before the time had expired for bidding on 
the house. Cerizet, who had been told the password and the 
notary's whereabout by Claparon, went to him and said — 
"One of my friend's, Claparon, whom you know, has asked 
me to come here. He expects you to-morrow at the place 
appointed; he has the paper you are to receive from him, 
and he will exchange it with you against the ten thousand 
francs. But I must be present at the payment of the money, 
because five thousand francs of it is coming to me, and I 
warn you, my dear sir, that the name on the counter-deed 
is left blank." 

"I will be there," said the ex-notary. 

The poor devil passed a night of horrible anguish, as 
may be imagined, for his salvation or his ruin was at stake. 
But the next morning, instead of Claparon, he saw an officer 
of the law, who, armed with a warrant, summoned him to 
go to Clichy with him. 

Cerizet had come to an understanding with one of the 
unhappy notary's creditors — having promised to deliver his 
debtor into his hands in consideration of a part of the 
amount of the debt. Out of the ten thousand francs in- 
tended for Claparon, the victim of this ambush was forced 
to pay six thousand for his liberty — the amount of his debt. 



138 BALZAC'S WORKS 

Receiving his share of this operation, Cerizet said to 
himself—" Here are a thousand crowns to get rid of Clapa- 
ron with." 

Cerizet went back to the notary and said to him — "01a- 
paron is a scoundrel, sir! He has been paid fifteen thou- 
sand francs by the purchaser, who will remain the owner. 
Threaten him with telling his creditors where he is hiding, 
and with a suit for fraudulent bankruptcy, and he will give 
you half the money." 

In his anger, the notary wrote a fulminating letter to 
Claparon. Glaparon, in his despair, trembled lest he should 
be arrested, and Cerizet undertook to procure him a pass- 
port. 

"You have played me many a trick, Claparon," said 
Cerizet, "but listen, you shall judge me. All I have in the 
world is a thousand crowns; I will give them to you! 
Leave for America at once, and make your fortune there, 
as I must make mine here." 

That evening, Claparon, disguised by Cerizet as an old 
woman, was on the road to Havre in the public coach. 
Cerizet now found himself in possession of the fifteen thou- 
sand francs demanded by Claparon, and he awaited Theo- 
dose in complacency of spirit. This extraordinarily perspi- 
cacious individual had a bidder, supposed to be a creditor 
with a claim of two thousand francs, who was to make a 
bid, but not soon enough to prevent the sale. This was an 
idea of Dutocq's, which he was rapidly putting into execu- 
tion. The pair were going to ask fifteen thousand francs 
more -to buy up this new competitor, so that each would 
clear seven thousand five hundred. Cerizet wanted this 
money to settle an affair just like Thuillier's, to which 
Claparon had called his attention. It concerned a house in 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 189 

the Rue Geoffroy-Marie, which was to be sold for the sum 
of six thousand francs. The widow Poiret offered to loan 
him ten thousand francs, and the wine merchant volunteered 
to loan a like amount, and to sign promissory notes for ten 
thousand as well. These thirty thousand francs, together 
with six thousand of his own, encouraged him to tempt 
fortune with the more show of reason, as the twenty-five 
thousand francs to come from Theodose seemed a certainty. 

"The time limit for the bid has gone by," said la Pey- 
rade to himself, as he went to ask Dutocq to send for Ceri- 
zet. "What if I tried to shake off my leech?" 

"This piece of business can only be transacted at Ceri- 
zet's, since Claparon is in it," answered Dutocq. 

Theodose therefore went to the den of the banker of the 
poor between seven and eight, whom the clerk of the court 
had apprised in the morning of the visit of their capitalist. 

La Peyrade was received by Cerizet in the horrible 
kitchen where poverty was sliced up and sorrow was cooked, 
as we have already seen. They were walking up and down 
the room, like two wild beasts in a cage, while the following- 
conversation took place between them: 

"Have you the fifteen thousand francs ?" 

"Not here, but I have them at home." 

"Why not in your pocket?" asked Cerizet with a snarl. 

"I will tell you why," answered the barrister, who had 
thought out the part he would play on the way to Cerizet's. 

"You have put me in a handsome position and I shall 
never forget it, my friend!" said The'odose with emotion. 

"Oh, never mind about that!" said Cerizet. 

"Listen — you do not guess what my intentions are ?" 

"Yes, I do," retorted the usurer. 

"No, you don't." 



140 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"You do not want to pay up those fifteen thousand — " 

Theodose shrugged his shoulders, as he looked fixedly 
at Cerizet, who, struck by this gesture, looked askance. 

"Would you like to be in my place, knowing that a 
loaded cannon was pointed at you, without wanting to es- 
cape? Now listen. You are engaged in a dangerous class 
of business, and ought to be glad of substantial patronage in 
the heart of the Paris judiciary. Advancing as I am, I am 
likely to be deputy public prosecutor in three years, or per- 
haps advocate general. I herewith offer you my solemn 
friendship, which will be of the greatest service to you if 
only to help you to an honorable position later on. Here 
are my conditions — " 

"What? Conditions?" bawled Cerizet. 

"In ten minutes I will bring you twenty-five thousand 
francs for the surrender of all papers you have against 
me." 

"And what about Dutocq ? And what about Claparon ?" 
exclaimed Cerizet. 

"Leave them in the lurch," whispered Theodose into his 
friend's ear. 

"How delightful," answered Cerizet. "And you are in- 
venting this little trick on the strength of fifteen thousand 
francs in your pocket which do not belong to you!" 

"I am adding ten thousand. However, we know each 
other—" 

"If you are able to get ten thousand francs out of your 
good people," said Cerizet sharply, "you can ask them for 
fifteen thousand. Make it thirty, and I am your man! I 
;im as candid as you are, you see." 

'What you ask is impossible," cried Theodose. "If at 
this moment you were dealing with Claparon, your fifteen 



provincial Parisians: 141 

thousand francs would be lost, for the house belongs to 
Thuillier." 

"I shall go and tell him,'' replied Cerizet, pretending to 
go up to the room which the aforesaid Claparon had left ten 
minutes before Theodose's arrival in disguise. 

The two opponents had of course spoken so as not to be 
overheard, and as soon as The'odose raised his voice, Cerizet 
at once warned him by a gesture that Claparon might be 
listening. The five minutes during which Theodose heard 
something like the buzz of two voices were horrid torture 
to him, as his whole existence was at stake. Cerizet came 
back to his associate with a smile on his lips, his eyes glit- 
tering in truly satanic mirth. 

"1 know nothing about it!" said he, shrugging his 
shoulders; "but Claparon has friends, he has worked for 
high-class bankers, and he laughed as he said, 'I thought 
as much.' You must bring me the twenty-five thousand 
francs to-morrow, and redeem your bills, my little man." 

"'Why so?" demanded Theodose, feeling as if an elec- 
trical discharge had liquefied his spinal column. 

"The house is ours!" 

"How is that?" 

"Claparon made a bid in the name of a creditor, the first 
who had entered suit, a little toad by name of Sauvaignou. 
Dcsroches is the attorney who has charge of the prosecu- 
tion, and to-morrow morning you will receive a notice. It 
is worth our while — Claparon's, Dutocq's and mine — to lay 
our hands on the funds. What would have become of me 
without Claparon ? I have forgiven him, of course. Yes, 
1 forgive him, and you might not believe me, my dear 
friend, but I embraced him! You must alter your con- 
ditions." 



142 BALZAC'S WORKS 

The last word was terrible to hear, particularly as illus- 
trated by Cerizet's grimace. 

"Oh, Cerizet!" cried Theodose, "and I meant so well 
toward you!" 

"You see, my dear boy," answered Cerizet, "between 
you and me, this is what is wanted!" And he smote the 
region of his heart. "But you have none!" he continued. 
"As soon as you have us fenced in, you try to squeeze us 
to death. I rescued you from vermin and the horrors of 
starvation; you were dying like a fool! We showed you 
the way to fortune; we gave you the most beautiful social 
varnish ; we put you where there was something to take — 
and now I know you, and I am on my guard!" 

"Is this a declaration of war?" said Theodose. 

"You are firing the first shot," said Cerizet. 

"If you destroy me, good-by to your hopes, and if you 
do not, you have me for an enemy!" 

"Exactly as I said to Dutocq yesterday," calmly re- 
sponded Cerizet. "But it is all the same to me! We will 
choose between the two; we will be guided by circum- 
stances. — I am not a bad sort of fellow," he resumed after 
a pause. "Bring me your twenty-five thousand francs at 
nine o'clock to-morrow, and Thuillier shall keep his house. 
We will continue to serve you at both ends, and you shall 
pay us. After what has happened, isn't that nice of me, 
my beauty ? ' ' 

And Cerizet clapped Theodose on the shoulders with 
cynicism more cutting than ever was executioner's sword. 

"Well, then, give me until noon," answered la Pey- 
rade; "for, as you say, there is money in it!" 

"I will try to persuade Claparon; he is in a great hurry, 
that man is!" 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 143 

"Well, to-morrow, then," said Theodose, in the tone of 
a man who seems to have made up his mind. 

"'Good-evening, friend!" said Cerizet in a nasal voice. 
"There is a sucking-fish for you!" said he to himself, as 
he watched Theodose stagger out into the street. 

Upon reaching the Rue d'^cosse, Theodose quickly 
walked to Madame Colleville's house, inwardly exulting, 
talking to himself aloud. By the fury of his passion, and 
the sort of internal fire so well known to Parisians — for in 
Paris such dreadful situations are many — he reached the 
degree of frenzy and eloquence which a word will ex- 
emplify. Turning down the Hue Deux-Eglises, he cried 
oa t_" I w iH kill him!" 

lie found Flavie alone*. 

"What is the matter with you?" she cried. 

"lam — " he answered. "Do you love me, Flavie?" 

"Oh, how can you doubt it?" 

"Do you love me without reserve ? Would you if I had 
committed a crime?" 

"Has lie killed any one?" she asked herself as she 
assented with a nod. 

Theodose, seizing this straw, went from his chair to 
Flavie's sofa, torrents of tears streaming from his eyes, 
accompanied by sobs that would have made a judge 
weep. 

"I am not at home to anybody!" Flavie told her maid. 
She shut the door, and came back to Theodose, moved to 
the highest pitch of maternal feeling. The child of Pro- 
vence lay prostrate, his head thrown back. He was drying 
his eyes with his handkerchief, which, when Flavie took it 
from him, was heavy with tears. "But what has happened? 
What is the matter with you?" she asked. 



144 BALZAC'S WORKS 

Nature, more effective than art, was doing Theodose an 
admirable service. He was no longer playing a part, but 
was himself, and these tears and this hysterical outburst were 
but the climax of the previous scenes of this comedy. 

"What a child you are," said she in a gentle voice, 
smoothing Theodose's hair, whose eyes were now dry. 

"I have only you in the world!" he exclaimed, kissing 
Flavie's hands madly; "and if you will remain true to me, 
if you will be to me what the body is to the soul, and soul 
to the body," said he, recovering himself, with charming 
grace — "well, then, I shall take courage!" 

Then he got up and walked about. 

"Yes, I will fight; I will collect my strength, like 
AntEeus, by embracing my mother! I will throttle with my 
hands the serpents that are entwining me — those serpents 
who give me their poisonous kisses, who are trying to suck 
my blood and my honor! Oh, how wretched it is to be 
poor! Oh, how great are those who can stand against 
poverty! I ought to have laid down to die of hunger three 
and a half years ago! The grave is a sweet bed compared 
to the life I am leading! These eighteen months have I 
been stuffing myself with the middle class, and just as 
I am going to begin a respectable and happy life, and am 
looking forward to a splendid future; just as I am sitting 
down to Fortuna's banquet, comes the hangman, and 
touches me on the shoulder: 'Pay your tithe to the devil, 
or you die!' And then I am not to crush them! And then 
I am not to thrust my arm down their throats to their very 
entrails! Oh, but I will — I will! Look, Flavie, are my eyes 
dry? Aha! now I am laughing! I feel my strength 
coming back! Oh, tell me that you love me — tell me so 
again! It will be like the word of pardon to a criminal." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 145 

"You are terrible, my friend!" said Flavie. "You have 
nearly killed me!" 

Although she did not understand him, she collapsed on 
the sofa, utterly upset by this performance, and then Theo- 
dose went down on his knees. 

"Forgive me — forgive me!" he cried. 

"But tell me what is the matter with you?" she asked. 

"There is a plot to ruin me. Only promise me Celeste, 
and yon shall see what a happy life is in store for you! It: 
you hesitate — well, that is as much as telling me that you 
will be mine yourself, and I will take you now!" 

He made such a violent movement toward her that 
Flavie started up, and began to walk up and down. 

"Oh, my angel, here I am at your feet again! What a 
miracle! Surely God is with me! Something like an illu- 
mination has entered my soul! I have had a sudden idea! 
Thank you, oh, thank you, my good angel! Saint Theo- 
dosius, thou hast saved me!" 

Flavie admired this chameleon-like creature, who, one 
knee on the floor, his hands crossed on his breast, and his 
eyes raised to heaven in a religious trance, was reciting a 
prayer, and, fervent Catholic that he was, signing himself 
with the cross. It was as fine as the prayer of Saint 
Jerome. 

"Good-by," said he in a melancholy voice that was 
charmingly seductive. 

"Oh!" cried Flavie, "leave me your handkerchief." 

Theodose ran down the steps like a madman, rushed into 

the street, and went full speed in the direction of the Thuil- 

liers. Turning his head, he saw Flavie at the window, and 

sent her an ecstatic greeting. 

"What a man!" said she to herself. 
(G)-Vol. 16 



146 BALZAC S WORKS 

"My dear friend," said he gently and quietly, almost 
coaxingly, to Thuillier, "we are in the hands of atrocious 
villains, but I am going to give them a little lesson." 

"What is it all about?" said Brigitte. 

"Well, they want twenty-five thousand francs, and in 
order to reach us legally, the notary or his accomplices have 
bid above us. Put five thousand francs in your pockets, 
Thuillier, and come with me; I am going to secure you that 
house. I am making deadly enemies by it, and they will 
slay me morally. But if you will remain deaf to their 
miserable lies, and will never change your opinion of me, 
that is all I ask; and what, after all, does the whole thing 
come to? If I win, you will pay one hundred and twenty- 
five thousand francs instead of one hundred thousand." 

"And that would be the end of it, surely?" anxiously 
asked Brigitte, whose eyes were dilating with suspicion. 

"None but registered creditors are entitled to make bids, 
and as only this one has taken advantage of the privilege, 
we may feel safe. The claim is only for two thousand 
francs, but the attorneys must be well paid in affairs of this 
sort, and the creditor will expect a thousand-franc note." 

"Come, Thuillier," said Brigitte. "get your hat and your 
gloves, and you can get the money. You know where." 

"As I have let fifteen thousand francs go by, I do not 
want any more money to pass through my hands. Let 
Thuillier pay it himself," said Thewiose, when he was 
alone with Brigitte. "You have made at least thirty thou- 
sand francs in the bargain I arranged for you with Grindot. 
He thought he was benefiting the notary, and now you own 
a piece of property that in five years will be worth nearly a 
million. It is on the corner of a boulevard!" Brigitte 
evinced anxiety as she listened, just like a cat that hears 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 147 

mice under the floor. She looked into The'odose's eyes, 
and in spite of the justice of his remarks, doubts began to 
arise in her mind. 

"What is the matter, little aunt?" 

"I shall be in a desperate state until we are really the 
proprietors of — " 

' You would certainly give twenty thousand francs, 
would you not," said Theodose, "to make Thuillier undis- 
puted owner? Well, remember that I have made that 
amount for you twice over." 

"Where are we going?" asked Thuillier. 

"To Maitre Godeschal, whom we must engage as our 
attorney. ' ' 

"But we refused him when he asked for Celeste!" said 
the old maid. 

'That is just the reason why I am going there," an- 
swered Theodose. "I have weighed his character; he is a 
man of honor, and will think it a fine thing to do you a 
service." 

Godeschal, Derville's successor, had for more than ten 
years been Desroches' head clerk. Theodose, familiar with 
this fact, had heard that name whispered into his ear by an 
inner voice in the midst of his despair, and he conceived 
the possibility of striking from Claparon's hand the weapon 
with which Cerizet threatened him. But first the barrister 
felt it advisable to go to Desroches 7 office and seek enlight- 
enment upon the situation his opponents were in. Gode- 
schal only, by reason of the intimacy between clerk and 
master, could inform him. Parisian attorneys, when they 
are as closely connected as Godeschal and Desroches, live 
in genuine confraternity, from which results a certain 
facility of arranging matters that are at all arrangeable. 



148 BALZAC'S WORKS 

And la Peyrade, who was a clever man, had worn his law- 
yer's gown long enough to know how the morals of the 
judiciary would further his plans. 

"Stay in the carriage," said he to Thuillier, as they 
arrived at the Rue Vivienne, where Grodeschal was now 
principal of the office in which he had served his appren- 
ticeship. "You need only come up if he undertakes the 
business.'' 

Though it was eleven at night, la Peyrade had not been 
mistaken, when he reckoned to find a newly fledged attor- 
ney at work in his study at that hour. 

"What is it that gives me the honor of your visit?" said 
Godeschal, turning to meet la Peyrade. 

"Well," said la Peyrade, "the matter is a serious one, 
and a delicate question must be resolved between the two 
of us. Thuillier is below in the carriage, and I do not 
come as a barrister, but as a friend ; you alone are able to 
render him an immense service, and I told him you had too 
noble a soul — for are you not the great Derville's successor? 
■ — not to place your full capabilities at his disposal. Now, 
this is the affair." 

After explaining (entirely to his own advantage) the 
piece of rascalit}^ which was to be met. with skill — since 
attorneys encounter more mendacious than veracious clients 
— the barrister summed up his plan of campaign. "You 
ought, my dear sir, to go this very evening to Desroches, 
put him on the track, and make a promise to have his 
client call to-morrow morning — that Sauvaignou. Between 
the three of us, we will make him confess, and if he wants 
a thousand-franc note besides his claim, we will let him 
have it, without counting the fee of five hundred francs 
for yourself; and the same for Desroches, on condition that 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 149 

Thuillier obtains a surrender from Sauvaignou to-morrow 
at ten o'clock." 

"I shall go to Desroches at once," said Godeschal. 

"No, not before Thuillier has given you the power of 
attorney and five thousand francs. In these cases the 
money must be put on the table." 

After an interview at which Thuillier was present, la 
Peyrade carried off Godeschal in a carriage, and took him 
to the Rue Bethisy, to Desroches', alleging that they went 
by that route so as to get back to the Rue Saint-Dominique- 
d'Enfer, and at Desroches' door la Peyrade agreed upon 
another meeting, to take place the next day at seven 
o'clock. Theodose's future and fortune hinged upon the 
success of this meeting, so that we must not be astonished 
to find him waiving professional usage, when we see him 
going to Desroches to face Sauvaignou, and to throw him- 
self into the fight, despite the danger he was running by 
exposing himself to the eye of the most redoubtable attor- 
ney in Paris. 

As he came in, he first set eyes on Sauvaignou. This 
Marseillese, as his name seemed to indicate, was a foreman 
who was an agent between the workman and the master 
carpenter, to superintend the execution of the work agreed 
upon. The contractor's profit was the difference between 
the foreman's price and the builder's, deductions allowed 
for materials, leaving therefore only the manual labor to be 
considered. The carpenter having gone into bankruptcy, 
Sauvaignou had filed a claim as a creditor upon the prop- 
erty at the Commercial Court. This little transaction had 
hastened the collapse. Sauvaignou, a short, squat man, clad 
in a gray linen blouse, and wearing a cap on his head, was 
sitting in an armchair. Three one-thousand franc notes lv- 



150 BALZAC'S WORKS 

ing in front of him upon Desroches' desk told la Peyrade 
plainly enough that the engagement had taken place, and 
that the attorneys had lost. Godeschal's eyes were elo- 
quent in corroboration hereof, and the look flashed by 
Desroches upon the advocate of the poor was like the 
stroke of a pick in a grave. Stimulated by the danger, 
the Provengal made a splendid effort. He took up the 
banknotes and folded them, as if to put them away. 

"Thuillier has changed his mind," said he to Desroches. 

"Oh, well, then, we are agreed," answered the terrible 
attorney. 

"Yes, your client is to bring us fifty thousand francs for 
expenses on the property, following the bargain between 
Thuillier and Grindot. I did not tell you that yesterday," 
said he, turning to Godeschal. 

"Do you hear that?" said Desroches to Sauvaignou. 
"That is matter for a lawsuit that I cannot undertake 
without a guarantee — " 

"But, gentlemen," said the foreman, "I cannot treat 
with you without seeing the good man who gave me five 
hundred francs on account for signing the power of 
attorney. 1 ' 

"Are you from Marseilles?" said la Peyrade to Sau- 
vaignou in patois. 

"Oh, if he begins to talk patois, he is lost," whispered 
Desroches to Godeschal. 

"Yea, Monsieur." 

"Well, you poor devil!" The'odose went on; "they want 
to ruin you. Do you know what you must do ? Put those 
three thousand francs in your pocket, and when the other 
fellow comes, take your rule and give him a thrashing, and 
tell him that he is a thief ; that he only wanted to use you as 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 151 

a tool; that you revoke your power of attorney, and that 
you will pay him his money back when Sunday falls on 
Saturday. Then, with your three thousand five hundred 
francs there, and your savings, get off to Marseilles, and if 
anything should happen to .you, come to this gentleman; he 
will alwajrs know where to find me, and I will get you out 
of your difficulties. For, do you see, I am not only a good 
Provencal, but one of the first advocates in Paris, and a 
friend of the poor." 

When the foreman found a compatriot as his authority 
for sanctioning his betrayal of the usurer, he capitulated on 
the terms of thirty-five hundred francs. 

The aforesaid fifteen hundred francs being granted. 
"A good thrashing," said Sauvaignou, "is just what it is 
worth, because he might have me put into prison — " 

"No, don't strike until he begins to talk nonsense," 
interrupted la Peyrade, "and then it will be in self- 
defence." 

Upon Desroches' assurance that la Peyrade was a plead- 
ing barrister, Sauvaignou signed the surrender, which in- 
cluded a receipt for the costs, interest, and principal of his 
claim, drawn out in duplicate between Thuillier and him- 
self, each having as witness his own attorney, so that the 
document might be regular and final. 

"We will leave you the fifteen hundred francs," whis- 
pered la Peyrade to Desroches and Godeschal; "but on 
condition of your giving me the surrender. I will have it 
signed by Thuillier at Cardot's. The poor man has not 
slept a wink all night." 

"Very well," said Desroches. "You may flatter your- 
self," he added, motioning to Sauvaignou to sign, "at 
having made fifteen hundred francs so easily." 



L59 BALZAC'S WORKS 

" They arc mine, right enough, mister lawyer?" asked 
the Provencal uneasily. 

"Oh, yes, quite lawfully," answered Desroches. "Onlv 
you must, sign the withdrawal of your power of attorney this 
morning, dating it yesterday. Come in this way, please." 

Desroches told his head clerk what to do, and told one 
of his students to see that the bailiff went to Cerizet's before 
ten o'clock. 

"I am greatly obliged to you, Desroches," said la Pey- 
rade, taking the attorney's hand. "You thought of every- 
thing, and I shall never forget your seryice to me." 

"Do not deposit your papers with Cardot until after 
twelve o'clock." 

"There is something behind that." said Desroches to 
Gtadesehal, as he returned to the study. 

"The Thuilliers are getting a magnificent piece of prop- 
erty for nothing." said (.Todesehal. "that is all." 

"La Peyrade and Ccrizet remind me of two divers n>ht- 
ing under water. What am I to say to CeYizet, to whom I 
owe the job?" Desroches asked the barrister. 

"That your hand was forced by Sauvaignou, " replied la 
Peyrade. 

"Yon have no fears, then?" said Desroches pointblank 
to la Peyrade. 

"Oh, no; he can learn from me!" 

'To-morrow I shall know everything," said Desroches 
to Godeschal. "No one is more ready to talk than a man 
who is beaten." 

La Peyrade went away with his document under his 
arm. At eleyen o'clock he was standing before the justice 
of the peace, calm and determined: and as Ce'rizet arrived, 
pale with anger and looking daggers, he said into his ear — 



PROVINCIAL PAtUSMXS 153 

"Mv dear fellow, you see how kind I am. too! I still 
have twenty -five :.. - id francs at your disposal in bank- 
notes for all the papers you have against me." 

Ceriaet Looked at the advocate of the poor, without being- 
able to find a word to answer. He was git-en: he was swal- 

insr his bile. 

'I am undisputed o^ier!" cried Thuiliier. as he re- 
turned from Jaequinot s. Caidot's son-in-law and sac- 
saor. "No power on earth can take my house away 
from me. They told me bow'' 

"Well, my dear friend."' said la Peyrade. returning 
from the magistrate's hearing at three o'clock, "here you 
are. enormously rich!" And taking Thuiliier into the gar- 
den, he began v thout further ado — "Mv dear friend, nnd 
an excuse to ask your sister for ten thousand francs, in such 

,>v that sue mav never - - :t that thev are for me. Tell 
her the amount is wanted to facilitate your nomination as a 
memoer of the Legion of Honor, and that vou know how 

money will be expended." 

"Yes. that's it," sai I Thuiliier. "Besides. I can pay 
her back out of the rents." 

"Have the money ret this evening. I am going out 
- - u Cross, and to-morrow we shall know more 

particula: 

"V i man you are." exclaimed Thuiliier. 

"The ministry Sisl March is going to fall: so 

we ought gel itoi.it," remarked T::eodose 

'.v. 

The barrister hastened t<:> Ma lame l>'.leville. and said to 
her. as he entered the room — "I have won! We shall have 

v worth a million, whose reversion will be 
settled upon her by Thuiliier! B as keep this secret. 



154 BALZAC'S WORKS 

for your daughter's hand will be asked by peers of France. 
Besides, I am benefited by it also. Now dress, and let us 
go to the Comtesse de Bruel's, who can get Thuillier the 
Cross. While you are putting your armor on, I will pay 
court for a moment to Celeste, and we will talk on the 
way." 

La Peyrade noticed Celeste and Felix P hellion in the 
drawing-room. Flavie had so much confidence in her 
daughter that she had left her alone with the young pro- 
fessor. Since his great triumph that morning, Theodose 
felt as though it were time to begin his suit to Celeste. 
The moment for instigating a quarrel between the lovers 
had arrived. He therefore did not hesitate to glue his ear 
to the door of the drawing-room before going in, to find out 
what letter of the alphabet of love they were at, and he was 
induced to this domestic crime through concluding from 
their loud voices that they were in dispute. Love, accord- 
ing to one of our poets, is a privilege that two people give 
each other of reciprocal worrying about nothing. 

"Monsieur Phellion," Celeste was saying, interrupting 
him tartly, "enough of this subject!" 

It was at this that Theodose thought fit to enter the 
room, and he found Celeste pale, and the schoolmaster as 
nervous as a lover usually is who has been irritating his 
sweetheart. 

"I heard the word enough! Does that mean that there 
was too much ?" he inquired, looking from Celeste to Felix 
and from Felix to Celeste. 

"We were talking about religion," answered Felix, "and 
I was telling Mademoiselle how fatal priestly influence is to 
the peace of the home — ' ' 

"No, that is not the point, Monsieur," said Celeste an- 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 155 

grily, "but it is a question whether husband and wife can 
be united in heart - and soul when one is an atheist and the 
other a Catholic!" 

"Are there such people as atheists?" exclaimed Theo- 
dose, pretending great astonishment. "You ask whether 
a Catholic may marry a Protestant? Why, no salvation 
is possible for a married couple except they are in perfect 
harmony in their religious opinions! As for me, I am a 
son of the Church, and I would undertake nothing impor- 
tant without prayer, according to the good old custom. I 
do not flaunt my religion. In the Revolution of 1789 an 
event happened in my family which attached us more than 
ever to our Holy Mother Church. A poor Demoiselle de 
la Peyrade of the elder branch, six years before the Revo- 
lution, married a lawyer, who, following the fashion of the 
time, was a Voltairean, that is to say a sceptic — or a deist, 
if you like. He gave himself up to revolutionary theories 
and the delicacies of the religion of Reason, which you 
know of. He came back to our country imbued with the 
fanaticism of the Convention. His wife was very hand- 
some; he forced her to play the part of Liberty. The poor 
creature went mad — she died mad! Well, as things are 
going now, we may look forward to another 1793." 

This narration, which he made up as he went along, 
made such an impression upon Celestes young and innocent 
imagination that she got up, bowed to the two young men, 
and went to her room. 

"Ah, Monsieur, what have you been saying?" cried 
Felix, wounded to the soul by the cold look that Celeste 
had cast him. "She already fancies herself turned into 
the Goddess of Reason!" 

"What was it all about?" asked Theodose. 



156 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"About my indifference to religion." 

"The great evil of the century, ' answered Theodose 
with unction. 

"Here I am," said Madame Colleville, who now appeared 
dressed up in good taste. "But what is the matter with my 
poor little girl ? She is crying!" 

"Crying?" exclaimed Felix. "Tell her, Madame, that 
I will read the 'Imitation of Christ' at once." 

And Felix went down to the street with Theodose and 
Flavie, whose arm the barrister squeezed, to make her un- 
derstand that he would explain the young man's fit of mad- 
ness in the carriage. 

An hour after, Madame Colleville and Celeste, and Colle- 
ville and Theodose, arrived at the Thuilliers' for dinner. 
Theodose and Flavie had taken Thuillier into the garden, 
and Theodose had said to him — "My dear friend, the Cross 
will be yours in a week. Our little friend here will tell you 
of our visit to the Countess de Bruel." 

Here Theodose left Thuillier, at perceiving Desroches in 
the company of Mademoiselle Thuillier. He went toward 
the attorney, impelled by a horribly chilling presentiment. 

"My dear maitre," whispered Desroches to Theodose, 
"I have come to see if you can furnish twenty-five thousand 
francs, plus two thousand six hundred and eighty francs and 
sixty centimes for costs." 

"You are Cerizet's attorney!" cried the barrister. 

"He has handed the papers over to Louchard, and you 
know what awaits you after arrest. Is Cerizet wrong in be- 
lieving you have twenty-five thousand francs in your desk ? 
You offered him that amount, and naturally he does not 
want to leave it in your possession." 

'Thank you, Maitre Desroches, I foresaw this attempt." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 157 

"Between ourselves," answered the attorney, "you have 
fooled him beautifully. The rascal will shrink from noth- 
ing to get revenge, and if you will let your lawyer's gown 
go to the devil, and submit to imprisonment, he will lose 
everything!" 

"I!" cried Theodose; "I am going to pay! But there 
are still five acceptances of five thousand francs each. 
What does he propose to do with them?" 

"After this morning's affair, I can tell you nothing more. 
But my client is a very sly dog, and certainly has his little 
schemes." 

"Now, see here, Desroches, are those papers still at your 
office?" 

' ' Are you going to pay ? ' ' 

"Yes, in three hours." 

"Very well, be at my place at nine o'clock, when I will 
take the money from you and remit you the drafts. Only 
understand that at half-past nine they would be at Lou- 
chard's." 

"Very well, then, this evening at nine," said Theodose. 

"At nine," repeated Desroches, with a single glance 
taking in the whole family then assembled in the garden. 
Celeste, with red eyes, was talking with her godmother. 
Colleville, Brigitte, Flavie, and Thuillier were on the steps 
leading to the garden from the hall. Said Desroches to 
Theodose who had escorted him hither on the way out — 
"You can redeem your bills of exchange easily enough." 

By that one glance Desroches had learned the barrister's 
tremendous power. 

At daybreak next morning, Theodose went to the short- 
loan usurer to see what effect the punctual liquidation of 
the night before had had upon his enemy, and to begin 



158 BALZAC'S WORKS 

other tactics to get rid of this horsefly. Cerizet was already 
up, and engaged in conversation with a woman. 

"But, my dear Mamma Cardinal — " 

"Yes, my dear gentleman — " 

"What is it you want?" 

"You must make up your mind — -" 

Nothing but such fragments of an animated talk, passed 
in undertones from mouth to ear and from ear to mouth, 
were overheard by the mute witness, who fixed his atten- 
tion upon Madame Cardinal. She was one of Cerizet's first 
customers and sold fish at second-hand. Parisians may be 
aware of such strange creatures flourishing on their soil, but 
strangers have no notion of their existence, and Mother Car- 
dinal, technically speaking, deserved all the interest she 
excited in the barrister. So many women of this kind are 
to be seen in the streets that they are no more noticed than 
three thousand pictures in a gallery. But the Cardinal wo- 
man had all the merits of a great masterpiece, as she was 
a perfect type of her species. 

"And do you want me to sleep on straw?" said she to 
Cdrizet. 

"What do I care for the Toupilliers? Am I not a 
Toupillier? Where do you want me to put them — these 
Toupilliers?" 

This vicious sally was stopped by Cerizet with an em- 
phatic and prolonged "Hush!" 

"Well, then, go and see about it, and then come back," 
said Cdrizet, pushing the woman to the door, with a parting 
whisper. 

"So, my dear friend," said Theodose to Cerizet, "you 
have got your money ?" 

'Yes," answered CerizeL, vve matched our claws. They 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 159 

are equally tough, equally long, equally strong — and now 
what next?" 

"Am I to tell Dutocq that you received twenty-five 
thousand francs yesterday?" 

"Oh, my dear friend, not a word, if you love me!" 

"Listen," resumed Theodose, "I want to know once for 
all what you are going to do. I have positively decided 
not to stay another twenty-four hours on this gridiron. If 
you cheat Dutocq, it makes no difference to me, but I want 
to come to an understanding with you. Twenty-five thou- 
sand francs will make your fortune, for you must have made 
ten thousand in your business, and you will have enough 
to begin as an honest man. If you will let me alone, and if 
you will not prevent me from becoming Mademoiselle Colle- 
vi lie's husband, I shall rise to be public prosecutor, or some- 
thing of the kind, and you could do no better than to secure 
such patronage." 

"Here are my conditions," said Ce'rizet, "and they do 
not admit of discussion. You can take them or leave them. 
You will see that I get the Thuillier house as chief tenant — 
with power to sublet — on a lease of eighteen years, and 
I will then give you back one of the five bills of ex- 
change cancelled. You will find me in your path no 
longer. You must deal with Dutocq as regards the other 
lour. It is your own fault; but Dutocq is no match for 
you." 

"I consent to that if you will pay a rent of forty-eight 
thousand francs, first year in advance, and begin the lease 
from next October." 

"Yes, but I will only pay forty-three thousand in cash. 
Your note will make up the forty-eight. I have looked at 
the house, and the bargain suits me." 



160 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"One more condition, 1 said Theodose: "will you help 
me against Dutocq?" 

"No," answered Cerizet, "you have cooked him enough 
without my running a spit through him. Be reasonable. 
The poor man does not know where to turn for the last 
fifteen thousand francs to pay for his place in the lawyers' 
firm, and it is surely enough for you to know that with 
fifteen thousand francs you can buy back your notes." 

"Well, then, give me a fortnight to get your lease ready." 

"Not later than next Monday. On Tuesday your five 
thousand franc bill will be in Louchard's hands, unless you 
have paid on Monday, or Thuillier has awarded me the 
lease. ' ' 

"Very well, then, let it be Monday!" said Theodose. 
1 ' Are we friends again ? ' ' 

"We shall be on Monday," answered Cerizet. 

"Very well, on Monday you will invite me to dinner," 
said Thdodose laughing. 

"At the Rocher de Cancale — if I have the lease. Dutocq 
will join us, and we shall enjoy ourselves. I have had no 
amusement for a long time." 

Theodose and Cerizet then parted. 

The business of chief tenant, Cerizet knew to be very 
profitable. He had investigated the chances which a lease 
of Thuillier's stolen house (as he described it to Desroches) 
would afford, and had calculated that it might be sublet for 
more than sixty thousand francs, in six years' time. It con- 
tained four shops, two fronting on each side, as it stood on 
the corner of a boulevard. He hoped to make at least ten 
thousand francs for twelve years, and so for the present 
gave up the purchase of a house in the Rue Greoffroy-Marie, 
to which allusion has previously been made. But an unex- 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 161 

pected awakening was in store for him. He found Fortune 
standing at his pillow, pouring affluence over him from her 
golden horn, in the person of Madame Cardinal. He had 
always treated this woman with special consideration, and 
for a year had been promising her enough money to buy a 
donkey and a little cart, so that she might do her business 
on a large scale, and go as far as the suburbs. Madame Car- 
dinal, the widow of a market porter, had an only daughter, 
whose beauty had been praised to Cerizet by some of his 
other customers. Olympe Cardinal was about thirteen years 
of age when Cerizet began to loan money in his district, and 
with the ulterior objects of a libertine he showered atten- 
tions on the woman Cardinal. He had rescued her from 
utter destitution, hoping to get Olympe for his mistress, but 
in 1838 the girl had left her mother, and was no doubt 
making a living — to use an expression by which the common 
people of Paris denote the sacrifice of the most precious 
gifts of nature and of youth. 

To look for a girl in Paris is like fishing for a member of 
the white-bait tribe in the Seine. You must trust to your 
net and to luck — propitious in this case to Mother Cardinal. 
She had one day taken a friend to the Gobino Theatre, and 
there had recognized the leading lady to be her daughter, 
whom the first comedian had had in his power for three 
years. The old woman, at first delighted to see her offspring 
in a gorgeous dress, her hair done like a Duchess's, wearing 
fine-worked stockings and satin slippers, and her entrance 
applauded, had finally shouted at her from her seat — "You 
shall hear of me again, your mother's murderer! We will 
see if good-for-nothing play-actors have the right to seduce 
girls of sixteen!" 

She lay in wait for her daughter at the stage door, but 



162 BALZAC'S WORKS 

the leading lady and the first comedian had no doubt climbed 
over the footlights, and gone out with the public, instead of 
by the back door, where the widow Cardinal and her good 
friend, Mother Mahoudeau, created a furious disturbance, 
which two municipal guards allayed. These august func- 
tionaries, before whom the two women lowered the pitch of 
their vociferation, stated to the mother that her daughter 
was of legal age to join a theatre, and that, instead of 
squealing at the door for the manager, she could summon 
him before the justice of the peace, or the police court, at 
her choice. The next day, Madame Cardinal decided upon 
consulting Cerizet, knowing he was employed in the magis- 
trate's office. But before repairing to her den in the Rue 
des Foules, her uncle Toupillier's house porter had startled 
her with the news that the old man was at his last extremity, 
having but two days to live. 

"But what can I do?' 1 the widow Cardinal had asked. 
"We will count on you, my dear Madame Cardinal, to 
do something for us for the good advice we are giving you. 
This is what has happened. For some time your poor uncle 
has not been able to stir, and is sending me to collect the 
rents of his house in the Rue Notre-Dame de Nazareth, and 
also the arrears of dividends on treasury bonds worth eigh- 
teen hundred francs." 

At this Madame Cardinal's eyes, which had been wander- 
ing, suddenly became fixed. 

"Yes, my little lady, 1 ' the worthy Perrache, the little 
hunchback porter, had resumed, "and seeing that you were 
the only person who ever thought of him and went to see 
him, and brought him some fish occasionally, perhaps he 
might leave you something in his will. My wife has been 
taking care of him these last days. She spoke to him about 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 163 

you, but he did not want you to be told that he was ill, but 
now you see it is time to show your nose. Why, it is fully 
two months now that he has not been going to business!" 

"You know very well, old leather-scraper," the woman 
Cardinal had replied to the porter (a shoemaker by trade), 
as they rapidly walked toward her uncle's, "that hair might 
have grown inside my hands sooner than I would have 
guessed that! What? My uncle Toupillier rich? The 
pious beggar of the Saint Sulpice?" 

"Oh," the porter had said, "he was doing very well. 
He took his sweetheart to bed with him every night — a fat 
bottle of Roussillon wine. My wife tasted it, though he 
used to tell us that it only cost six sous a bottle." 

"Never mind about all that, my good man," Madame 
Cardinal had said, as she left the porter. "I will remember 
you — if there is anything." 

This Toupillier, once a drum-major in the French Guard, 
had in 1787 gone into the service of the Church, when he 
became beadle of Saint Sulpice. The Revolution had 
stripped him of his office, and he had fallen into utter des- 
titution. He had then been obliged to take up the pro- 
fession of artist's model, which his fine build enabled him 
to do. When the government removed the restrictions upon 
Church services, he resumed his beadle's halberd, but in 1816 
was again expelled, partly because of immoral conduct, and 
partly by reason of his political opinions. He was supposed 
to be a Bonapartist. However, by way of a pension, he was 
allowed to take his stand at the door, and to proffer holy 
water. After this, a troublesome incident, to which we 
shall soon have occasion to refer again, caused the loss of 
his sprinkler. But he still contrived to maintain his con- 
nection with the Church by getting permission to beg in 



164 BALZAC'S WORKS 

the porch. He was now seventy-two years old, called 
himself ninety-six, and began the centenarian paupers' 
trade. 

In the whole of Paris there was no such beard to be seen, 
and no such hair, as Toupillier's. He walked almost 
doubled up, leaning on his stick with a trembling hand, a 
hand covered with the lichen that grows on stone, and he 
held out the classic, greasy, patched-up, broad-brimmed hat, 
into which alms fell in plenty. His legs, wrapped about with 
linen rags, dragged along in dilapidated hemp shoes, sup- 
plied inside with substantial horsehair soles. He doctored 
his face with pigments, to imitate marks of disease and old 
age. He was king of the beggars, and lord of all he sur- 
veyed, and all who came to beg within the sacred precincts 
paid him a sort of tax. When a mourner, a bridegroom, or 
a godfather, came out from Church saying, "Here is some- 
thing for all of you, and now leave me alone," Toupillier, 
as the beadle's successor, pocketed three-quarters of the 
donation, and gave only one-quarter to his acolytes, whose 
tribute money amounted to one sou a day. Money and 
liquor were his two last predilections, but he regulated his 
habits of drink and devoted himself entirely to gathering 
wealth, without neglecting his health, however. He would 
drink at night after dinner when the Church was shut. 
Twenty years he went to sleep embracing his bottle — his 
last mistress. In the morning he was to be found at his 
post, with all his artistic stock-in-trade. Until dinner time 
he gnawed ostentatiously at bread crusts, as if they were his 
only food. He did this with a humble resignation that 
brought him many a penny. The beadle and the holy water 
man, with whom he probably had an understanding, used to 
say of him — "That is our Church beggar. He knew the 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 165 

Cure Languet who built Saint Sulpice. He was beadle for 
twenty years before the Revolution and after. He is a 
hundred years old." 

This little chapter of biography, known to all the church- 
going dames of the parish, was the best of advertisements, 
and no hat in all Paris was better filled. He had bought his 
house in 1826, and his government securities in 1830. To 
judge by the value of each, his income must have been six 
thousand francs a year, and he no doubt had made his 
money by usury, like Cerizet, since the price of the house 
was forty thousand francs, and he had forty- eight thousand 
in bonds. The niece, completely deceived by her uncle — 
as also were the porter, the petty Church officials, and the 
congregation — thought him poorer than herself, and when 
she had some fish in the first stages of decay she used to 
take them to the poor old man. She therefore thought her- 
self justified in seeking reward for her liberality and sym- 
pathy toward an uncle who very likely had a host of rela- 
tives, herself being the third and last of the Toupillier 
daughters. She had four brothers, and her father, a truck 
vender, had in her childhood mentioned three aunts and 
four uncles, all very badly bestowed with worldly goods. 
After seeing the sick man, she had galloped off: to consult 
Cerizet, to tell him that she had found her daughter again, 
and to impart to him her reasons for believing that her uncle 
Toupillier had quantities of gold hidden in his bed. Ma- 
dame Cardinal felt herself unequal to the task of getting her 
hands upon this legacy, either with or without the law, and 
so she went to confide in Ce"rizet. 

"My Benjamin," said the second-hand fish dealer, ad- 
dressing Cerizet with a countenance inflamed as much by 
cupidity as by her rapid walk, "my uncle is lying on more 



166 BALZAC'S WORKS 

than a hundred thousand francs in gold, and I am sure that 
the Perraches, on the pretence of nursing him, have made a 
hole in the money bag." 

"Divided among forty heirs," said Cerizet, "that would 
not be much for any one. Listen, Madame Cardinal! I 
will marry your daughter. Give her your uncle's gold, and 
I will let you take the interest on the bonds and the rents 
from the house for your lifetime." 

"Do we run no risk?" 

"None." 

"Done with you, then!" said Madame the widow, clasp- 
ing her future son-in-law's hand. "Six thousand francs a 
year! What a glorious life!" 

"And a son-in-law like myself!" added Cerizet. 

"I shall be a real lady!" screeched old Cardinal. 

"Now," resumed Cerizet, after an embrace with his 
mother-in-law, "1 must go and examine the ground. Do 
you stick to the place! You must tell the porter that you 
are expecting the doctor. The doctor will be myself, and 
you must not recognize me." 

"You're a sly one, } 7 ou great rascal!" said Madame 
Cardinal, slapping Cerizet on the stomach by way of say- 
ing good-by. 

An hour after, Cerizet, dressed all in black, and dis- 
guised by a red wig and skilfully made-up face, arrived in 
the Rue Honore-Chevalier in a hired cabriolet. He asked 
the shoemaking porter to show him where a poor old man 
called Toupillier lived. 

"Is Monsieur," said the porter, "the doctor whom Ma- 
dame Cardinal is expecting?" 

Cerizet had no doubt rehearsed his difficult part in his 
mind, for he avoided answering. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 167 

"Is it here?" he asked, making his way at hazard 
toward one of the sides of the courtyard. 

"No, Monsieur," answered Perrache, who took him to 
the back stairs leading to the garret which the pauper 
occupied. 

The resource remained to the inquisitive porter of ques- 
tioning the coachman, and we will leave him engaged in 
that pursuit. 

With the assistance of the rope which served as a ban- 
ister, Cerizet climbed the ladder to the room where the 
centenarian lay dying, and where the hideous drama of 
acted poverty awaited his sight. In Paris, everything that 
is done by design is a success. In this paupers excel, just 
as the shopkeepers do in their display windows, and just as 
the rascals do who borrow money on false pretences. The 
floor had never been swept; the planks were invisible under 
a litter of refuse, dust, caked mud, and any trash that 
Toupillier might fling down. A tumble-down, cast-iron 
stove, whose pipe was bricked into a condemned chimney, 
was the most conspicuous ornament of this hovel. At the 
bottom of a recess was a rickety bed, with green serge cur- 
tains, eaten by worms until they presented the semblance of 
lace. The window was darkened by a greasy deposit on the 
panes, which supplied the place of blinds. The white- 
washed walls were blackened with the smoke of coal and 
turf from the stove. On the chimney-piece were a chipped 
water jug, two bottles, and a cracked plate. An old worm- 
eaten chest of drawers contained some linen and clean 
clothes. The furniture consisted in a night-table of the 
coarsest description — a table worth forty sous — and two 
kitchen chairs, almost denuded of straw. The centenarian's 
picturesque costume was hanging on a nail; beneath it the 



168 BALZAC'S WORKS 

hemp shoes that were his usual footgear; his magic staff 
and his hat made a sort of panoply of poverty. 

As C^rizet entered the room, he cast a rapid and inclu- 
sive glance at the old man. His head was lying on a pillow 
black with dirt, and without a cover, and his angular pro- 
file stood out dark against the green curtains. Toupillier, 
a man of nearly six feet in height, was staring at an imagi- 
nary object at the foot of his bed. He had not stirred when 
the heavy door creaked, which was sheeted with iron and pro- 
vided with strong bolts, for the safe protection of his domicile. 

"Is he conscious?" said Cerizet, before whom Madame 
Cardinal recoiled, recognizing him only by his voice. 

"Yes, very nearly." 

"Then come out on the landing, where he cannot hear 
us. This is how we will go about it," he went on, speaking 
into his future mother-in-law's ear. "He is weak, but he 
does not look bad, and I think we may count on another 
week. I am going for a doctor who will do what we want. 
I shall come back this evening with six poppy heads. In 
his present state, you see, a brew of that kind would put 
him into a deep sleep. I shall also send you a truckle bed, 
on the pretext of giving you a couch to spend the night 
upon in his room. While he is asleep, we will move him 
from his own bed to the other, and when we have found the 
money in that precious piece of furniture — well, then, we 
will find a way of carrying it off. The doctor will tell us 
whether he is likely to live a few more days, and able to 
make a will." 

"My dear son!" 

"But we must know who the inhabitants of this shanty 
are. The Perraches might sound the alarm, and so many 
lodgers mean so many spies." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 169 

"I know this," answered Madame Cardinal, ; 'that Mon- 
sieur du Portail, the little old tenant on the first floor, is 
taking care of a maniac whom an old Flemish woman by 
name of Katt has been calling Lydie all day. The only 
servant is another old man, called Bruno, who does every- 
thing except the cooking." 

"But what about that binder and that stitcher?" ob- 
jected Cerizet. "They are at it from early morning. How- 
ever, we must see," he added, like a man who has not yet 
fixed upon a definite plan of action. "In any case, I will 
go to the municipal office in your district, to see about 
Olympe's birth certificate and the publication of the banns. 
Next Saturday week is the wedding!" 

"How you do go it! How you do go it, you old 
scamp!" ejaculated Mother Cardinal, playfully giving her 
redoubtable son-in-law a push with her shoulder. 

On his way out, Cerizet was surprised to see the little 
old man, du Portail, walking in the garden with one of the 
most important members of the government, Martial de la 
Roche-Hngon. He lingered about the courtyard, scrutiniz- 
ing the old house built under Louis XIV., whose browned 
stone walls were as decrepit as Toupillier. He looked into 
the two workshops and counted the workmen. The house 
was as silent as a cloister. Seeing himself observed, Ce'rizet 
went away, revolving in his mind all the difficulties in- 
volved in the abstraction of the hidden treasure, though the 
bulk might be small. "Take that away during the night," 
he mumbled, "when the porters are on the alert, or in the day- 
time, when one would meet twenty people — ? Twenty-five 
thousand francs will make an awkward bundle to carry — " 

"Well, sir," said the porter's wife, coming out to meet 

Cerizet, "how is he doing, that good old man?" 
(H)— Vol. 16 



170 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"I am not a doctor," answered Cerizet, who had no taste 
for the part; "1 am Madame Cardinal's business agent. I 
have just advised her to get another bed, so as to be near 
her uncle day and night, although it would perhaps be best 
to engage a sick-nurse." 

"I can easily attend to that; I have nursed women in 
child-bed." 

"Well, we will see about it; but who is the lodger 
on the first floor?" 

"Monsieur du Portail. He has lived here for thirty 
years. He is a gentleman of leisure, Monsieur; a very re- 
spectable old gentleman. Yes, he lives on his money. He 
was once in business. For nearly eleven years he has been 
trying to give her senses back to a daughter of one of his 
friends, Mademoiselle Lydie de la Peyrade; she is being 
well looked after, you may be sure, and only this morning- 
two famous doctors were in to see her. But they have not 
been able to cure her up to now; she requires very close 
attention, as sometimes sbe gets up in the night — " 

"Mademoiselle Lydie de la Peyrade!" shouted Cerizet. 
"Are you quite sure of the name?" 

"Madame Katt, her companion, who also does the little 
cooking there is, has told me her name a thousand times, 
although generally neither Monsieur Bruno nor Madame 
Katt ever talk. It is as difficult to get any information out 
of them as it would be from a stone wall. For twenty years 
that we have been porters here we have never heard any- 
thing about Monsieur du Portail. More than that, Mon- 
sieur, he owns that little house next door. You see that 
house door? Well, he can go out as he pleases, and let 
people in that way as he pleases, without our knowledge. 
The landlord knows no more about him than we do. If 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 171 

aDy one rings at the house door, Monsieur Bruno goes to 
open it.' ; 

"So then," said Cerizet, "you did not see the gentleman 
come in with whom the old fox is talking now ?" 

"No, surely not!" 

"It is Theodose's uncle's daughter," said Cerizet to 
himself, as he got into the cabriolet. "Should du Portail 
be the unknown friend who sent my young gentleman 
twenty-five hundred francs once upon a time? "What if I 
write the old man an anonymous letter, warning him of the 
dangers the barrister is threatened with, on account of bills 
of exchange worth twenty-five thousand francs?" 

An hour after, a truckle-bed, with all fittings complete, 
arrived for Madame Cardinal, to whom the inquisitive por- 
ter's wife offered her services to get food for the invalid. 

"Do you want to see the priest?" said Madame Cardinal 
to her uncle. She observed that the arrival of the bed had 
aroused him from his lethargy. 

"I* want wine!" answered the pauper. 

"How do you feel, Father Toupillier?" asked Madame 
Perrache, in her most caressing tones. 

"I want wine, I tell you!" repeated the old fellow, with 
more vigor than his enfeebled condition would have alio we I 
one to expect. 

"How do we know if it's good for you, uncle?" said 
his niece coaxingly. "We ought to hear what the doctor 
gays first. " 

"Doctors? I won't have any!" shouted Toupillier. 
"And you — what are you doing here? 1 want nobody!" 

"Uncle, dear, I came to see if you wanted anything. I 
have some nice fresh sole. How about a pretty little sole, 
now, with a slice of lemon?" 



172 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"Fine fish yours is — rotten stuff! The last you brought 
me, over six weeks ago, is still in the cupboard. You may 
take it back." 

"Goodness! How ungrateful these invalids are!" re- 
marked Madame Cardinal aside to the lady Perrache. At 
the same time, to show her solicitude for the patient, she 
smoothed out his pillow, saying: "There, uncle! That is 
better now, isn't it?" 

"Go to the devil!" bellowed Toupillier, enraged. "I 
want to be left alone! Get me some wine, and shut up 
your jaw!" 

"Don't be cross, uncle; we'll get you the wine." 

Cerizet, returning to Toupillier's, to impart further in 
structions to the niece, met her with a basket under her 
arm. 

"Well," said the usurer, "is this how you stick to your 
post?" 

"I had to go out for wine," answered the Cardinal 
woman. "He is bawling like a madman about being left 
alone, and about taking his dose. He thinks Rousillon is 
the best thing in the world for his illness; he shall have 
a bellyful! Perhaps when he is full, he will keep quiet. " 

"Right you are," said Cerizet sententiously. "Invalids 
must never be contradicted. But this wine, you under- 
stand, must be improved by putting in this," and he raised 
the lid of the basket and slipped in some poppy-heads. " You 
will give the poor old man the benefit of at least five or six 
hours' sound sleep. In the evening I shall come back to 
see you, and I think there will be no further obstacle to our 
examining the particulars of the legacy." 

'That's it!" said Madame Cardinal, with a confirming 
wink of the eye. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 173 

"This evening, then," and the usurer broke oil the con- 
versation. 

He felt that he was embarking on a difficult and disrepu- 
table enterprise, and had no special desire to be seen in the 
street talking with his accomplice. 

When she went back to the beggar's garret, his niece 
found him still plunged in the same lethargy. She sent 
Madame Perrache away, and went to the door, to take in a 
bundle of firewood, which she had ordered in a neighboring 
street. Into an earthenware pot, with which she had pro- 
vided herself, and which fitted the hole in the top of the 
stove where poor people cook their food, she threw the 
poppy-heads, drowning them in two-thirds of the bottle of 
wine she had bought. She then lit a big fire under the ves- 
sel so as to have the concoction ready as soon as possible. 
The crackling of the wood and the heat of the room did not 
fail to awaken Toupillier from his state of torpor. Seeing 
the stove lighted, he cried out — "What, a fire here? Do 
you want to burn the house down?" 

"But, uncle dear, that is wood I bought out of my own 
money to warm your wine. The doctor says you must not 
drink it cold." 

"Where is the wine?" then asked "uncle dear, " some- 
what pacified by the assurance that these culinary operations 
were not being conducted at his expense. 

"We must wait for the water to boil," answered his 
nurse; "the doctor said so. But if you will be good, I 
will give you half a glass cold to soothe your stomach. 
J am taking that much upon myself — you must say nothing 
about it." 

"I want no doctors. They are a set of criminals who try 
to kill every one!" cried Toupillier, reanimated by the idea 



174 BALZAC'S WORKS 

of drink. "Well — and that wine?" with the expression of 
a person whose patience is exhausted. 

Convinced that if this indulgence would do him no harm, 
it would also do him no good, the Cardinal woman filled a 
glass half full, and, while presenting it with one hand to the 
sick man, with the other she supported him so that he might 
sit up and drink it. 

With his skinny and eager fingers, Toupillier seized the 
glass, and after having emptied its contents at a single 
draught, he complained — "Four drops altogether, and water 
in it at that!" 

"Hush, uncle, you must not say that. I bought it my- 
self at Father Legreleu's, and I am giving it to you pure, 
but let me mix the rest. Doctor said you might drink your 
fill of it." 

Toupillier resigned himself with a shrug of the shoul- 
ders, and in a quarter of an hour, the nostrum being ready, 
Madame Cardinal without further discussion brought him a 
cup full to the brim. With such avidity did the centenarian 
swallow the potion, that he did not at once perceive that the 
wine was drugged. But at the last gulp, he became aware 
of a peculiar, nauseating flavor, and flung the cup on his 
bed, wailing that an attempt had been made to poison him. 

"Indeed? This is the kind of poison you have been 
given," answered the fishmonger, as she let the dregs in 
the cup dribble into her mouth. She then maintained that 
if the wine had not its usual taste, it was because his tongue 
was foul. 

The sequel to this debate, which continued for some 
time, was that the drug began to take effect, and when an 
hour had elapsed the patient was sound asleep. While she 
was waiting for Cerizet, in eniorced leisure, Madame Cardi- 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 175 

nal was seized with an idea : she thought that to faciliate the 
goings and comings necessary for the removal of the treasure, 
it might be well to dampen the Perraches' vigilance. Con- 
sequently, after taking the precaution of throwing the pop- 
py-heads away, she called the porter's wife, and said to her 
— "Mother Perrache, do come and taste his wine! You 
would have rather thought he was ready to make away- 
with a whole cask, and here, after the first cup, he wants 
no more!" 

"To your health," said the porter's wife, clinking her 
glass against Madame Cardinal's, who was wise enough to 
take her own portion from the unadulterated fluid in the 
bottle. Less versed in the knowledge of liquors than Tou- 
pillier, Madame Perrache detected no flavor in the insidious 
beverage, now cold, to make her suspect its soporific quali- 
ties. On the contrary, she declared it was like velvet, and 
only regretted that her husband was not there to get a share. 
After a prolonged gossip, the two old women parted; then, 
with some meat she had purchased, and the remainder of the 
Rousillon, Madame Cardinal spread herself a repast, which 
she crowned with a nap. Without taking the excitement 
of the day into consideration, the fumes of one of the most 
intoxicating wines in the world would have sufficiently ex- 
plained the depth and duration of her slumbers. When she 
awoke, twilight was setting in. 

Her first thought was to look at the patient's bed. His 
sleep was uneasy, and he was talking in his dreams. 

"The diamonds," said he, "the diamonds! After my 
death, not before!" 

"Well," said Madame Cardinal, "diamonds, too? Who 
would have thought it?" 

And seeing that Toupillier was apparently in the throes 



176 BALZAC'S WORKS 

of a violent nightmare, instead of soothing his agitations by 
changing his position, she concentrated her attention upon 
the words he was uttering, hoping to derive some important 
revelation from them. 

Just then, a sharp knock at the door, from which the 
excellent nurse had been wise enough to withdraw the key, 
announced Cerizet's arrival. 

"Well?"" said he, entering. 

"Well, he took the dose. He has been sleeping like an 
angel four whole hours; he was speaking about diamonds 
just now in his dreams." 

"Oh," said Cerizet, "it would not surprise me if we 
found some. These paupers, when they take it into their 
heads to get rich, collect all sorts of things." 

"But, my little man, what was your idea in telling 
Mother Perrache you were my business agent, and that 
you had nothing to do with the medical trade? We 
agreed this morning you were to come as a doctor." 

Cerizet did not want to acknowledge that the assumption 
of the title of doctor had frightened him, for his accomplice 
must not be discouraged. 

"I saw that the woman was attempting to get a free con- 
sultation, and I got rid of her in that way." 

"Ah," said Madame Cardinal, "great minds have the 
same thoughts, and it was my trick, too, to show her the 
thing in the same light. To see a business agent come, 
seemed to put ideas into her head. Did they see you come 
in, those Perraches ?" 

"The woman seemed to be asleep in her armchair." 

"Of course she was asleep," said Madame Cardinal 
significantly. 

"What, really?" asked Cerizet. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 177 

"Decidedly!" said the fish dealer. "When there is 
enough for one, there is enough for two; I gave her the 
rest of the medicine." 

"As for the husband," Cerizet went on, "he is there; 
for as he pulled the door rope, he gave me a gracious nod 
of recognition which I would have been pleased to dispense 
with." 

"Let us wait until it is quite dark, and we will fool him 
grandly." 

In effect, a quarter of an hour later, with an amount of 
spirit that surprised even the usurer, the woman enacted 
a comedy, for the benefit of the stupid porter, pretending 
to walk to the door with a gentleman who had declined the 
civility, and whom she was killing with kindness. Feign- 
ing to escort the imaginary doctor to the street door, she 
complained that the wind had blown out her candle, and, 
on the pretext of lighting it at Madame Perrache's, extin 
guished that lady's. All this fuss, accompanied with a 
variety of vociferations, and with a bewildering flow of lan- 
guage, was so artfully managed, that had she been called 
before a magistrate, the porter's wife would have testified 
on oath that she had let out the doctor between nine and 
ten in the evening. When the two conspirators were in 
undisturbed possession of the field, the woman hung up her 
shawl before the window to act as a curtain. 

In the Luxembourg quarter traffic stops at an early hour, 
and a little before ten all sounds in the house, as well as 
those without, had nearly ceased. A neighbor engrossed 
in the reading of a serial novel alone held the confederates 
in check for some time, but no sooner had he put the extin- 
guisher on his candle, than Cerizet said it was time to set to 
work. By going about the job at once, there was the better 



178 BALZAC'S WORKS 

probability of tiie sleeper remaining under the influence of 
the drug, and if the discovery of the treasure did not con- 
sume too much valuable time, Madame Cardinal might have 
the house door opened, to let her out on the pretext of going 
to the chemist's for some medicine demanded by a crisis in 
the patient's condition. Reckoning upon the habits of por- 
ters disturbed in their first sleep, Cerizet hoped the Per- 
raches would pull tae door rope without getting up. He 
would thus been enabled to slip out at the same time, and 
between them they could convey part of the money to a safe 
place that night. As for spiriting away the rest, it would 
be easy to invent a plan the next day. Sublime in counsel, 
Cerizet was but an indifferent man of action, and without 
the woman's robust arms he could never have lifted from 
the bed what might be called the ex-drum major's corpse. 
In dead sleep, and absolutely unconscious, Toupillier was 
an inert mass, which fortunately could be handled without 
elaborate care. Doubly strong under the incentive of cu- 
pidity, the athletic Cardinal, in spite of her business agent's 
inefficient aid, succeeded in operating the transportation of 
her uncle without mishap, and at last the bed was open 
to their search. 

At first they found nothing, and the fish dealer, pressed 
to explain how she had that morning persuaded herself that 
her uncle was lying on a hundred thousand francs in gold, 
was obliged to own that the conversation with the Perraches 
and her own active imagination approximately formed the 
foundation of her knowledge. Ce>izet was furious. After 
all day cherishing the idea and the hope of fortune, after 
deciding to embark upon a hazardous and compromising 
undertaking, he found himself face to face with Zero! The 
disappointment was so cruel, that if he had not been afraid 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 179 

to match his muscular strength with his mother-in-law's, he 
would have indulged in physical extremities against her. 
The least he could do was to vent his anger in words. 
Severely scolded, Madame Cardinal contented herself with 
replying that all hope was not lost, and, with a face that 
would have moved mountains, continued to ransack the bed 
from top to bottom and from end to end. She prepared to 
empty the mattress, already vainly explored, in every direc- 
tion, but Cerizet would not allow this extravagant measure, 
remarking that after the autopsy of the mattress a deposit 
of straw would remain on the floor that might give rise to 
suspicions. In order to leave herself no room for self- 
reproach, notwithstanding C^rizet's opposition, who thought 
such minuteness absurd, she wanted to remove the sacking 
that formed the bottom of the bed. Her senses must have 
been sharpened by the intensity of her search, for as she 
lifted the wooden frame she heard the noise of a small 
object dropping on the floor. Ascribing to this trifle, which 
any one else might have overlooked, greater importance 
than anything could justify, this ardent female explorer at 
once took a light, and, after probing the filth and rubbish 
that covered the flooring, she finally put her hand on a 
piece of polished steel half an inch long, and whose use 
was a mystery to her. 

"It is a key!" exclaimed Cerizet, who had stood by with 
considerable indifference, but whose imagination at once 
started off at a gallop. 

"Ah ha! You see!" exulted Madame Cardinal. "But 
what can it open?" added she reflectively — "a doll's ward- 
robe ? ' ' 

"Not at all," he retorted, "it is a modern invention, and 
a very large lock can be opened with this little instru- 



180 BALZAC'S WORKS 

ment." At the same time he glanced rapidly at all the fur- 
niture in the room, went to the chest of drawers, and pulled 
them all out, looked into the stove, and into the table 
drawer, but nowhere did he see a sign of such a lock as 
this key might fit. 

Mamma Cardinal was suddenly inspired. 

"Stop! I noticed that from his bed the old thief never 
took his eyes off the wall opposite him." 

"A cupboard hidden in the wall? That is not impossi- 
ble." said Cerizet, hastily seizing the light. 

And after attentively examining the door in the recess, 
which faced the head of the bed, he found nothing beyond 
a dense curtain of dust and cobwebs. He then tried the 
sense of touch, which is more thorough, and began to test 
and tap the wall all over. But the region off which Toupil- 
lier had never taken his eyes, at last revealed within a nar- 
row space a hollow sound, and at once he knew that he was 
knocking on wood. He next rubbed the place vigorously 
with his handkerchief, which he had scrunched up, and, 
under the layer of dirt he cleared away, discovered an oak 
plank fitting hermetically into the wall. At one end of this 
plank was a little round hole— the keyhole to which the key 
in his hand belonged. 

While Cerizet turned the key, which worked without 
difficulty, Madame Cardinal, holding the light, stood pale 
and breathless. But, cruel disappointment! the cupboard 
open, nothing appeared but an empty space, in vain illumi- 
nated by the candle eagerly thrust into it by the fish vender. 
Leaving this bacchante to howl her picturesque despair, and 
shower upon her dear uncle all the vilest epithets imagina- 
ble, Cerizet kept perfectly cool. After putting his arm into 
the opening, and testing the back of it — "An iron chest!" 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 181 

he exclaimed, adding impatiently, "Why don't you hold up 
the light, Madame Cardinal ?" 

Then, as the light did not shine far enough into the 
space he wanted to examine, he snatched the candle from 
the neck of the bottle, where, in default of a candlestick, 
the Cardinal had stuck it, and moved it carefully over every 
part of the iron place he had discovered. 

"No lock!" said he, after a scrupulous investigation. 
"There must be some secret." 

"What an old villain of an uncle!" hissed Toupillier's 
niece, while Ce*rizet's bony fingers were feeling for useful 
indications. 

"Now I have it!" said he, after half an hour of groping 
and wondering, during which time the life of his lady ac- 
complice seemed as if suspended. 

Under the pressure to which it was subjected, the iron 
plate gave way, and in the good-sized hole now thrown open 
was disclosed a heap of loose gold, on the top of which was 
a red morocco case, that, by its size, gave promise of splen- 
did booty. 

"1 will take the diamonds for the marriage portion," said 
Cerizet, in presence of the gorgeous jewels contained in the 
case. "You, mother, would not know how to dispose of 
them, so I will leave you the gold for your share. As for 
the bonds and the house, they are not worth the trouble of 
making the good man make another will." 

"Stop a minute, my little man!" objected Madame Car- 
dinal, who found this division rather too summary. "We 
must count the cash first." 

"Hush!" said Cerizet, pausing to listen. 

"What is it?" asked she. 

"Did you hear nothing stirring below?" 



182 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"I heard nothing." 

Cerizet signed to her to keep silent, and listened with 
redoubled attention. 

"I hear footsteps on the stairs," said he shortly. 

And he quickly threw the case back into the iron chest, 
and tried to close it. 

While he was expending his strength in useless efforts 
the steps drew nearer. 

"Yes, some one is coming up!" whispered Madame 
Cardinal, appalled. 

Then clutching at a straw, she said — "Nonsense, it 
is only the maniac! They say she wanders about at 
night." 

In any case, the maniac had a key to the room, for a mo- 
ment later that key was inserted in the lock. With a rapid 
glance the old woman measured the space between herself 
and the door, doubting whether she had time to push the 
bolt; but, calculating that she would be forestalled, she 
quickly blew out the light, to give herself such chances as 
darkness might afford. Her pains were superfluous. The 
marplot who entered had a candlestick in his hand. 

When she saw that she had to deal with a little old man 
of puny figure, Madame Cardinal, her eye aflame, rushed at 
him like a lioness defending her cubs. 

"Keep cool, my good woman," said the old man in a 
mocking tone, "we have sent out to look for the rounds; 
they will be here in a moment." 

The word "rounds" made Madame Cardinal's legs give 
way under her, as the vulgar saying goes. 

"But, my good sir, the rounds!" said she in terror. "We 
are not thieves." 

"That does not matter, if I were you, I would not wait 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 183 

for them," said the old man. "They sometimes make 
annoying mistakes." 

"Then, may one clear out?" said the fish dealer incred- 
ulously. 

"Yes, after you have given me what has accidentally 
strayed into your pockets." 

"Oh, my dear sir, there is nothing in my hands, nothing 
in my pockets; one does not come into the world to do evil. 
I was only here to take care of my poor dear old uncle. 
You may search me if you like!" 

"Enough! Get out!" 

She did not wait to be told twice, and went off down- 
stairs full speed. Cerizet prepared to follow her. 

"As for you, Monsieur, it is another matter," said the 
old man. "We have something to talk about; but if you 
behave well, everything may be arranged in good part." 

Be it that the effects of the drug were now worked off, 
or be it that the disturbance had roused him, Toupillier 
opened his eyes, and looked about him like a man who does 
not know where he is. The next moment, seeing his be- 
loved cupboard open, his excitement gave him strength to 
shout out loudly enough to have waked the house, "Thieves! 
thieves!" 

"No, Toupillier," said the new-comer, "you have not 
been robbed. I arrived in time, and nothing has been 
taken." 

"And you are not going to have him arrested — that 
rascal there?" cried the beggar, pointing to Cerizet. 

"The gentleman is not a thief," answered the other, "but, 
on the contrary, he is a friend who came up with me, to help 
me." At the same time turning to Cerizet — "I think, my 
dear sir," he said in a low tone, "that we shall do well to 



184 BALZAC'S WORKS 

postpone the interview I wish to have with you. To- 
morrow at ten o'clock at Monsieur du Portail's, next door. 
After what has happened this evening, it might be incon- 
venient for you not to accept the invitation. I should 
infallibly find you, as I have the honor of knowing who 
you are. It is you whom for a long time the opposition 
journals were in the habit of calling 'the bold Cerizet.' " 

In spite of the keen irony of this reminiscence, Cerizet, 
seeing that he would not be more rigorously dealt with than 
Madame Cardinal, was well enough pleased with this turn 
in the situation, and after promising punctuality, hastily 
sneaked away. 

The next day Cerizet did not fail to present himself at 
the appointed place. After giving his name at the porter's 
wicket, he was admitted to the house, and directly taken to 
du Portail's study, where he found that gentleman at work. 
Without rising, and motioning his guest to a seat, the little 
old man continued a letter he had begun. After closing 
the envelope, and sealing it with such care as to prove him 
either exceedingly precise and fastidious or a man who had 
exercised diplomatic functions, du Portail rang for Bruno, 
his manservant, and said to him as he handed him the letter: 
"For the district magistrate." 

He then carefully wiped the steel pen he had just been 
using, and arranged symmetrically all the things lying 
about his desk; and it was only after he bad finished all this 
funny little fussing that he turned to Cerizet — "Did you 
know that we had lost our poor Monsieur Toupillier last 
night?" 

"No, I did not," said Cerizet, putting on the most sym- 
pathetic air he was able. "You, sir, are the first to tell me 
the news." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 185 

"You, at least, might have looked for as much. When 
a person doses a dying man with a large bowl of hot wine, 
which must have been drugged into the bargain — for after a 
single glass, the woman Perrache lay in an almost lethargic 
sleep all night — he has evident intentions of hastening the 
catastrophe." 

"I am ignorant, Monsieur, of. what Madame Cardinal 
may have given her uncle. I, no doubt, committed the im- 
prudence of helping the woman to look after her interests, 
in a matter of a legacy, to which she thought herself by 
right entitled; but as for making an attempt on the old 
man's life, I am incapable of such a thing, and nothing of 
the kind ever entered my thoughts." 

"Did you write me this letter?" abruptly asked du 
Portail, taking a sheet of paper from underneath a paper 
weight of Bohemian glass, and presenting it to his inter- 
locutor. 

"That letter?" said Cerizet, with the hesitation of a man 
who does not know whether to lie or to tell the truth. 

"lam sure of what I am saying," resumed du Portail. 
"I have a mania for autographs, and own one of yours, 
from the days when the opposition elevated you to the 
glorious estate of a martyr. I have compared the writing, 
and it is certainly you who yesterday, as it appears from 
this note, apprised me of the financial embarrassments in 
which young la Peyrade is now struggling." 

"Being aware," answered the usurer of the Rue des 
Poules, "that you had taken a Demoiselle de la Peyrade to 
live with you, who must be The'odose's cousin, I guessed 
you to be that unknown friend who more than once has so 
generously assisted him. As I have a great affection for 
the poor boy, I took the liberty, in his interests, to — " 



186 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"You did well," interjected du Portail. "I am de- 
lighted to have come upon a friend of Theodose's, and I 
cannot deny that yesterday evening it was that fact that 
saved you. But what do these bills of twenty-five thousand 
francs mean ? Are his affairs in very bad disorder ? Does 
he lead a dissipated life?" 

"On the contrary," replied Cenzet, "he is a Puritan, 
devoted to religion. As a barrister, he has refused to take 
any but poor people as clients. He is also going to make a 
rich marriage soon." 

"Oh, he is going to marry! And whom is he going to 
marry ? ' ' 

"His name is coupled with a Demoiselle Colleville's, a 
daughter of the secretary at the municipality — eleventh 
district. The girl has no money of her own, but a Mon- 
sieur Thuillier, her godfather, a member of the general 
council of the Seine, promises a suitable marriage portion." 

"And who managed this?" 

"La Peyrade has done a great deal for the Thuillier 
family, to whom he was introduced by Monsieur Dutocq, 
clerk of the court in the district." 

"But you write that it is in favor of this Monsieur 
Dutocq these notes were made out. So it is apparently a 
case of matrimonial brokerage?" 

"It might be something of the kind," Cerizet assented. 
"You know, Monsieur, that in Paris transactions of that 
kind are not at all rare; even the clergy do not object to 
taking a hand in them." 

"Is the match at a very advanced stage?" asked du 
Portail. 

"Yes, very, and the affair has been progressing rapidly, 
especially during the last icw days." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 187 

"Well, then, my dear sir, I count on you to break it 
up. I have other plans for Theodose, another marriage to 
propose. ' ' 

"Allow me! If this match fails, he cannot possibly 
pay the debt, and I have the honor to observe that those 
bills constitute a legal claim. Monsieur Dutocq is clerk to 
a justice of the peace, which is to say that he knows what 
he is about in such matters." 

"The debt to Monsieur Dutocq," rejoined du Portail, 
"you must buy. You will be able to effect an understand- 
ing with him on this point. At the worst, should Theodose 
become recalcitrant, these documents would be a formidable 
weapon in our hands. You would undertake the prosecu- 
tion in your own name, and without inconvenience or risk, 
as I am ready to liquidate the whole amount, capital and 
interest, as well as costs." 

"You are a square man in business. Monsieur," said 
Cerizet, "and it is really a pleasure to be your agent. Now 
that you find the time has come to initiate me further into 
the details of the mission which you have done me the 
honor to — " 

"We were just now speaking," resumed du Portail, "of 
Theodose's cousin, Mademoiselle Lydie de la Peyrade. This 
young person, who is no longer quite young, being close 
upon thirty, is a natural child of the famous Mademoiselle 
Beaumesnil of the Theatre-Francais, and of la Peyrade, 
commissioner-general of police under the Empire, and our 
friend's uncle. Up to the day of his death, which came 
suddenly, and left his daughter without a penny — he loved 
her tenderly, and had acknowledged her — I was on terms 
of closest friendship with that excellent man. The poor 
girl underwent such a severe shock at her father's death 



188 BALZAC'S WORKS 

that her reason was afterward slightly impaired. But a 
propitious change declared itself no later than yesterday, 
and I contrived a consultation between Doctor Bianchon 
and the two head physicians of Bicetre and La Salpetnere. 
These gentlemen were of the unanimous opinion that mar- 
riage and the birth of a child would certainly insure the 
patient's recovery, and you understand that the remedy is 
too easy and too agreeable not to be tried." 

"Then," inquired Cerizet, "it is his cousin, Mademoi- 
selle Lydie de Peyrade, that Theodose is to marry?" 

"You have said it. But you must not think I am asking 
our young friend — if he is willing — for a gratuitous sacri- 
fice. Lydie is an amiable person, she is talented, and has 
a charming disposition, and her influence will be useful to 
her husband in politics. She, moreover, has a tidy fortune, 
comprising what her mother left her and all I have, and 
which, in default of direct heirs, I shall settle on her in the 
marriage contract; besides, there is a considerable legacy 
that has come to her this very night." 

"What!" said Cerizet, "did old Toupillier— ?" 

k> In his holograph will he declares her his sole legatee. 
So, you perceive, I am entitled to thanks for taking no 
proceedings in your escapade with Madame Cardinal, since 
it was really our property you intended to plunder." 

li Dear me!" answered Cerizet. "I do not pretend to 
excuse Madame Cardinal's indiscretion. However, as a 
genuine heir, dispossessed by a stranger, she had some right 
to the indulgence you were kind enough to show her." 

''There you are mistaken. This seeming liberality 
toward Mademoiselle de la Peyrade is nothing more than 
a restitution." 

"A restitution?" asked Cerizet, puzzled. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 189 

"Yes, and nothing is easier to prove. Do you remember 
a diamond robbery, some ten years ago, affecting one of 
our dramatic celebrities?" 

"To be sure I do! I was then editor of one of my news- 
papers, and wrote the 'News of Paris' column myself. But 
your celebrity — why, it must have been Mademoiselle 
Beaumesnil!" 

"Exactly — Mademoiselle Lydiede la Peyrade's mother." 

"So that," Cerizet hastened to add — "that wretch of a 
Toupillier — But stop, it seems to me that the thief was 
caught. His name was Charles Crochard. It was even 
whispered that he was a natural son of a prominent per- 
sonage, the Count de Granville, attorney-general in Paris 
under the Restoration." 

"Well," du Portail began to explain, "here is what 
happened. The theft, which you remember too, was com- 
mitted in a house of the Rue Tournon, where Mademoiselle 
Beaumesnil was living. Charles Crochard, a good-looking 
young fellow, enjoyed great privileges there, it appears." 

"Yes, yes, I recollect Mademoiselle's embarrassment 
very distinctly when she gave her testimony, and the sort 
of faintness in her voice wdien the president of the assize 
court asked her age." 

"The robbery," continued the old man, "was auda- 
ciously perpetrated in broad daylight, and, once master 
of the jewels, Charles Crochard went to the Saint-Sulpice 
church, where he was to meet an accomplice. Having pro- 
vided himself with a passport beforehand, this accomplice 
was to leave at once, with the diamonds, for foreign parts. 
Chance ordained that, instead of the man he was expecting, 
and who was a few minutes late, the culprit found himself 
face to face with a famous detective, whom he knew quite 



190 BALZAC'S WORKS 

well; seeing that this was not the young scamp's first differ- 
ence with the law. His friend's failure to appear; the pres- 
ence of the police agent, who seemed to be eying him curi- 
ously; the commotion of his mind, and a quick movement, 
entirely accidental, of the detective toward the door — this 
gave the thief the impression that he was being watched. 
He lost his head, and in his excitement thought of nothing 
but getting rid of the fatal jewel-case, which would be found 
on his person by the imaginary police waiting for him out- 
side. Catching sight of Toupillier, at that time the holy- 
water man, he cautiously approached him, and said — "Will 
you be kind enough to take charge of this package for me ? 
It is a box of lace. I am going to see a countess near by, 
who is slow pay, and instead of settling my bill she will 
want to look at this novelty, and will want to buy it on 
credit. I would rather not take it with me. But be care- 
ful not to disturb the paper round the box, because nothing 
is so difficult as to fold a parcel again in the same creases." 

"How stupid!" ejaculated the short-loan usurer sponta- 
neously. "Of course he made the other man want to look 
inside the paper!" 

"You are a sound philosopher," nodded du Portail. 
"An hour after, when all danger appeared to have sub- 
sided, Crochard went for his parcel; but Toupillier had 
gone. You may well imagine how anxiously, at the first 
mass the next morning, the robber made for the holy -water 
man. But night brings counsel, and the fellow boldly de- 
clared that he had received nothing, and that he did not 
know what the other man meant." 

"And there was no way to attack him and bring him 
to book!" commented Cerizet, much inclined to express his 
sympathy with such an impudent trick. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 191 

"The theft was no doubt already public, and Toupillier, 
a strategist of the first order, had correctly calculated that 
if the delinquent accused him he would expose himself and 
be obliged to give up the spoil. At the trial, Charles Cro- 
chard said not a word of his discomfiture. Condemned to 
ten years' confinement at hard labor, during the six years 
he spent in the galleys — part of the sentence being remitted 
— he never once opened his mouth to any one as to the 
breach of confidence of which he had been the victim." 

"That was a good game!" said Cerizet. He was greatly 
taken with the story, and was regarding the thing in the 
light of a practitioner and an artist. 

"In the meantime," du Portail went on, "Madame Beau- 
mesnil had died, leaving her daughter the tatters of a once 
splendid fortune and also her diamonds, which she be- 
queathed to her in a separate clause, in case they should 
be discovered." 

"Ah, I see," said Cerizet. "That spoiled it for Toupil- 
lier. Having a man of your calibre to deal with — " 

"Possessed with the idea of revenge, Charles Crochard's 
first step, -when he had regained his liberty, was to accuse 
Toupillier as receiver of the jewel case. Brought to the 
War of justice, Toupillier made such an innocent defence 
that, there being no proofs of any sort forthcoming, the ex- 
amining judge let him go. As the result, however, he lost 
his place as holy-water man, and only with great difficulty 
obtained permission to beg in the porch of Saint-Sulpice. 
T was convinced of his guilt, and, notwithstanding the ac- 
quittal, had him very closely watched, although I counted 
principally on my own efforts. Having plenty of leisure, 
I kept persistently on his track, and made it the great busi- 
ness of my life to unmask the rascal. He then lived in the 



192 BALZAC'S WORKS 

Rue Coeur-Volant. I established myself as a tenant in the 
room next to his, and one evening, through a gimlet hole 
which I had laboriously drilled through the walls between 
the rooms, I saw our friend take the case from a most in- 
geniously conceived hiding place, and spend nearly an hour 
in delighted contemplation of the diamonds, which he held 
up to the light to see them sparkle, and then pressed to his 
lips with passion. The man loved them for their own sake, 
and had never thought of making money by them." 

"I understand. A mania something like Cardillac's the 
jeweller who is the subject of a melodrama." 

"The same sort of thing," said du Portail. "The wretch 
had fallen in love with his jewels, and when, a little later 
on, I went to him and told him I knew all, in order not to 
lose what he called the joy of his life, he asked if he might 
keep them during his lifetime, in consideration of appoint- 
ing Mademoiselle de la Peyrade his only heir. At the same 
time he confessed to owning a large sum in gold, which was 
accumulating every day, and besides that a piece of landed 
property, and some State bonds." 

"If he spoke in good faith, the proposition was accept- 
able; the interest on the capital represented by the dia- 
monds was easily made up for by the other items of the 
legacy." 

"You see, my good man, I was not wrong to trust him. 
In any case, I took full precautions. I insisted upon his 
taking lodgings in my house, where I could watch him 
closely, and the hiding place whose secret you so soon dis- 
covered was my idea. But what you do not know is that 
the secret, at the same time that it opened the iron chest, set 
in motion a loud bell in my room, intended to warn me of 
any attempt to carry off our treasure. " 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 193 

"Poor Madame Cardinal!" mirthfully exclaimed Cerizet, 
"how little she bargained for that!"' 

"Now here," said dn Portail, "is the situation. Because 
of my interest in my old friend's nephew, and also because 
this marriage seems to me very proper on account of the re- 
lationship, I want Theodose to espouse his cousin and this 
dowry. Since it is possible, because of the girl's mental 
condition, that la Peyrade will decline to enter into my 
views, I have not considered it advisable to make the pro- 
posal directly to himself. You came across my path; I 
know you to be sharp and "wily, and so I thought of plac- 
ing this little matrimonial negotiation in your hands. Now, 
you understand, you will tell him of a rich young lady, 
with a slight defect, but, on the other hand, a fat little mar- 
riage portion. You will give no names, but will at once 
come back and report how your overtures were received." 

"Your confidence," replied Cerizet, "is as gratifying to 
me as it is Mattering, and I will do my best to show myself 
worthy of it." 

"But you need give yourself no illusions," resumed du 
Portail, "for a refusal will be the first impulse of a man who 
has another match in mind. Nevertheless, we shall not con- 
sider ourselves defeated. I do not easily relinquish an idea 
when I believe it to be right. And even if we had to push 
our zeal for la Peyrade's happiness as far as to have him 
locked up in the Clichy debtor's prison, I have made up 
my mind not to give up a plan which I am sure he will ulti- 
mately acknowledge as a happy one. Therefore, whatever 
happens, buy the debt from this Monsieur Dutocq." 

"At par?" asked Cerizet. 

"Yes, at par, if you can do no better. We will make 

no difficulties about a few thousand francs, but Monsieur 
(I)— Vol. 16 



194 BALZAC'S WORKS 

Dutocq ought to give us his support, or at least his neu- 
trality, after the bargain is concluded. From what you 
have told me about the other marriage, I suppose it is un- 
necessary to observe that there is not a moment to be lost 
in putting the irons into the fire." 

iw I have a meeting arranged for the day after to-morrow 
with la Peyrade," said Cerizet. "We have a little matter 
to settle. Do you not think it would be well to wait until 
then, when I would incidentally bring your proposition for- 
ward ? In case of a refusal it seems to me our dignity will 
be better off." 

u So be it," agreed du Portail; "I cannot call that a 
delay. And remember, sir, that if you succeed, instead of 
having in me a man to call you severely to account for your 
imprudent assistance of Madame Cardinal, you will have 
placed me under a serious obligation to help you in every- 
thing. I have more influence than is generally supposed." 

After such satisfactory talk, the two men could not but 
part in the best of understanding, and greatly pleased with 
one another. 

Like the Tourniquet Saint-Jean, the Rocher de Cancale, 
whither the scene now changes, is to-day no more than a 
memory. The wine merchant's shop with a tin counter has 
taken the place of that temple of taste, that gastronomical 
sanctuary of Europe from the Empire to the Restoration. 

The day before the meeting agreed upon between them, 
la Peyrade received from Cerizet these few words — ' 'To- 
morrow, lease or no lease, at the Rocher, at half-past six." 

As for Dutocq, Cerizet had occasion to see him every 
day, since he was his copyist, and had therefore given him 
verbal notice; but the attentive reader will observe the 
difference in the time speciiied for the second guest. "A 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 195 

quarter past six. at the Rocker, " Cerizet had told him. 
Evidently he wished to have a quarter of an hour with 
him before la Peyrade's arrival. This interval of time the 
money-lender reckoned to employ in haggling with Dutocq 
for the bills, and had speculated that, tendered pointblank 
and unexpected, the proposal would stand a better chance 
of a favorable reception. 

"Do you know," began Ce'rizet, "that la Peyrade's mar- 
riage is at present in great danger of being stopped ?" 

"Stopped ? What do you mean ?" asked Dutocq. 

"I am commissioned to propose another match to him, 
and I very much doubt that any choice will be offered 
him." 

"What the devil are you lending yourself to another 
marriage for, when we have a mortgage on the first?" 

"My good friend, one does not always control circum- 
stances. I saw that, for certain reasons, the match we had 
arranged was going to water, and then I tried to get out of 
the business as soon as possible." 

"Indeed? Then all women are righting for this Theo- 
dose, are they ? Who is the person, and is there any money 
in it?" 

"The dowry is a fairly good one, and fully as large as 
Mademoiselle Colleville's. " 

"I don't care — la Peyrade signed the notes, and he shall 
pay." 

"He will pay, he will pay — that is just the point. You 
are not a man of business, and neither is Th^odose; he may 
take it into his head to dispute the validity of those bills of 
exchange. How do you know that if the court finds out 
their origin, and the Thuillier marriage does not take place, 
they will not be cancelled as having been signed without 



196 BALZAC'S WORKS 

value received ? As for me, I can smile at the discussion. 
It cannot affect me. And besides, my measures are taken; 
but you, a clerk of the court, do you foresee no difficulties 
with the chancellor's office resulting from such a suit?" 

"It seems to me, my dear fellow," retorted Dutocq, in 
the humor of a person confronted with an argument to 
which he knows no answer, "you have a mania for stirring 
up all sorts of business, and for interfering — " 

"I repeat," asserted Cerizet, "that this piece of business 
came after me, and I saw so clearly at once that the evil 
powers against us could not be fought that I decided to 
save myself by a sacrifice." 

"What sort of sacrifice do you mean?" 

"I mean that I have sold my debt, leaving it to the pur- 
chasers to make their own terms with the barrister." 

"But who bought the debt?" 

"Who do you suppose would have put themselves in 
my place, if not the people sufficiently interested in the 
other marriage to force Theodose into it?" 

"Then they cannot do without the drafts I hold?" 

"No, but I did not care about disposing of them before 
consulting you." 

"Well, what do they offer for them?" 

"Hang it, my good man, just what I took myself; know- 
ing better than you how dangerous their competition was, I 
decided to liquidate on poor conditions.'' 

"But what are those conditions?" 

"I let the bills go for fifteen thousand." 

"Come, come!" said Dutocq, shrugging his shoulders, 
"you seem to think you can make up your loss by broker- 
age on the transaction, which is, perhaps, after all, a scheme 
plotted between yourself and la Peyrade. " 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 107 

"You. are certainly very candid; a rascally idea shoots 
through your brain, and you bring it out with the most 
charming simplicity. Fortunately, you will presently hear 
my proposals to Theodose, and you will be able to judge 
from his behavior what sort of connivance there is be- 
tween us." 

"Very well," said Dutocq, "I withdraw the insinuation; 
but truly your employers are virtuous, and ought not to 
cut people's throats like that; besides, I have not a pre- 
mium to retire on, as you have." 

"This, my poor friend, is how I reason. I said to my- 
self that dear Dutocq is dreadfully hampered for money to 
pay off what he owes for his place in the firm, and here is a 
way for him to settle it at once. The event proves how 
risky it is to compromise la Peyrade, so let us offer him 
cash down. The bargain is perhaps not really a bad one." 

"True enough; but fancy losing two-fifths!" 

"Let us see," said Cerizet, "you were just now speaking 
of a premium. I see a way of getting you one, and if you 
will promise to work against the Colleville match, and to 
reverse the part you have been playing in it up to now, I 
might not despair of offering you the round sum of twenty 
thousand francs." 

"Oh, then you think that this new combination will not 
be agreeable to la Peyrade; that he will object? Should 
the heiress be some one from whom the rogue has already 
levied favors on account?" 

"All I can tell you is that there is money to be made in 
the end." 

"I ask no better than to take sides with you, and make 
myself unpleasant to la Peyrade. But five thousand francs, 
just think — it's really too much of a lossl" 



198 BALZAC'S WORKS 

At that moment the door opened, and a waiter ushered 
in the expected guest. 

"You may serve us now," said Cerizet to the waiter; 
"no one else is coming." 

It was evident that Theodose was beginning his flight 
toward the upper spheres of society. Elegance of attire was 
now the matter of his constant solicitude. He had on even- 
ing dress and patent-leather shoes, while his companions 
had on their ordinary clothes and dirty boots. 

"Gentlemen," he began, "I believe I am a little late; 
but that devil of a Thuillier, with the pamphlet I am com 
posing for him, is really most unendurable. I unfortunately 
have agreed with him to go over the proofs together, and at 
every new paragraph there is a fight. 'What I do not under- 
stand,' he always objects, 'the public will not understand 
either. I am not a man of letters, but I am a man of com- 
mon-sense.' Every sentence means a struggle; I thought 
our session just now would never end." 

"What do you expect, my dear fellow?" said Dutocq. 
"Any one who wishes to succeed must have the courage to 
make sacrifices. Once your marriage is accomplished, you 
will lift up your head." 

"Ah, yes!" sighed la Peyrade; "I shall lift it up, for 
since you gave me this bread of agony to eat, I have been 
very tired of it all." 

"Cerizet," laughed Dutocq, "is going to give us more 
nourishing food to-day." 

At first they thought of nothing but doing honor to the 
bill of fare which the prospective chief tenant had ordered. 
As it often happens at these business dinners, at which 
every one is engrossed with the questions to come up, yet 
nevertheless avoids mentioning them for fear of putting 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 199 

himself at a disadvantage by seeming too anxious, the con- 
versation for some time turned upon general subjects, and 
it was only at the beginning of the dessert that Cerizet 
concluded to ask la Peyrade what he had decided about 
the lease. 

"Nothing, my dear man," answered la Peyrade. 

••Wluit, nothing? It seems to me I left you enough 
time to come to some definite — " 

"As a matter of fact, it is quite definite, for there will 
be no chief tenant. Mademoiselle Brigitte is going to take 
full charge of the house herself." 

"That alters the case," said Cerizet, with an annoyed 
look. "After your pledges to me, I confess that I was far 
from looking for such a finale!" 

"How can I help it, my dear fellow? I gave you my 
promise, saving contingencies, and I have not been able to 
give things a different turn. As a masterful woman and a 
specimen of perpetual motion, Mademoiselle made up her 
mind to take charge of the management of the property 
herself, and thus to put in her pocket the profits which 
were to accrue to you. I did all I could to show her what 
worry and trouble she would be subjecting herself to. 'Oh, 
nonsense,' she answered, 'it will keep my blood moving, 
and it will be good for my health.' " 

' 'But how lamentable ! ' ' said Cerizet. ' 'The poor creature 
will not know what end to take hold of first; she does not 
know what a vacant house is, and how to furnish rooms for 
the tenants from top to bottom!" 

"I told her all those arguments," said la Peyrade, "but 
they made no impression whatever upon her, and 1 was 
quite unable to shake her determination." 

Said Cerizet, "I am not looking at the matter through 



200 BALZAC'S WORKS 

my own spectacles; but though I do not doubt that you 
really made every possible effort to redeem your word, I 
see a very threatening symptom in your failure. This even 
makes me decide to tell you something which otherwise I 
would not have mentioned; but I think when one has an 
object, one should go straight to it without looking back or 
forward, and without letting any other ambition interfere." 

"Come, now," said la Peyrade, "what is all this talk 
about? What is it you want? What is it going to cost?" 

"My dear boy," replied Cerizet, taking no notice of his 
impertinence, "you yourself will appreciate what it is worth 
to have found a young lady, well educated, adorned with 
beauty and talents, and with a dowry at least equal to 
Celeste's, which is her own, too. Besides, she has one 
hundred and fifty thousand francs' worth of diamonds, like 
Mademoiselle Georges' on the country theatrical placards, 
and, what must appeal to a man of aspiring temperament, 
political influence which would be of the greatest advantage 
to her husband." 

"And this treasure, have you your hand upon it?" 
asked la Peyrade incredulously. 

"Better than that, I am authorized to offer you the lady. 
I may as well admit that I am commissioned to do so. ' ' 

"My friend, you are making fun of me, and short of this 
phenix being afflicted with some horrible prohibitory — " 

"I acknowledge," said Cerizet, "there is a slight defect; 
not concerning the family, however, for, to speak the truth, 
the young person has none." 

"Ah," said la Peyrade, "a natural child! — And what 
else?" 

"What else? She has been looked upon as an old maid 
for some time, and very likely is twenty-nine years old; but 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 201 

nothing can be easier than to imagine an elderly girl as a 
young widow." 

"Is that all the damage?" 

"Everything that is irreparable." 

"What do you mean ? Has she cancer in the nose?" 

Addressed to Ce'rizet, these words showed an aggressive 
state of mind, which, by the way, was plainly in evidence 
from the whole of the barrister's conversation during the 
dinner. But it was not a part of the banker's business to 
take note of it. 

"No," he answered, "our nose is as well turned as our 
foot and our waist; but we may be a little touched with 
hysteria." 

"Very well," observed la Peyrade; "and as from hys- 
teria to mental alienation there is but a step — " 

"Well, yes," admitted Cerizet, "worry has left a slight 
derangement in our brains, but the doctors are unanimous 
that with the first child every trace of this little mental 
disturbance will vanish." 

"Of course I take the doctors' opinion as infallible," 
retorted the barrister; "but in spite of your report you will 
allow me to keep to Mademoiselle Colleville. It may, per- 
haps, be absurd to make the avowal, but I am gradually 
falling in love with the girl. It is not that her beauty is very 
resplendent, or that the magnificence of her dowry dazzi \s 
me, but I find innocence and good sense in the child, and, 
what is very attractive to me, earnest, sincere piety. I 
think a husband would be happy with her." 

"Yes," sneered Cerizet, who, having once been an actor, 
remembered the words of Moliere, "your marriage will be 
stuffed with sweetness and delight." 

This allusion to Tartuii'e was keenly felt by la Peyrade, 



202 BALZAC'S WORKS 

who lashed out angrily — "Through contact with her inno- 
cence, I shall disinfect myself from the ignoble company 
I have been keeping too long!" 

"And you shall pay your notes, too," rejoined Cerizet, 
"which I advise you to do without the least possible delay, 
for Dutocq here was just saying to me that he would not 
object to seeing the color of your money." 

"I? Not at all!" said Dutocq. "On the contrary, I 
said that our friend's delays are quite in order." 

"Well, then," said la Peyrade, "I am of Cerizet's 
opinion, and I hold that the less legitimate a debt is, and 
consequently the more impeachable and more disreputable 
it is, the more speedily ought it to be liquidated." 

"But, my dear la Peyrade," urged Dutocq, "really you 
are speaking in such a bitter tone — " 

Then, taking out a pocketbook, "Have you your papers 
there, Dutocq?" inquired la Peyrade. 

"No, I have not, my dear fellow," answered the clerk 
of the court, "and I am the less likely to have them about 
me, as they are in the hands of Cerizet." 

"Very well," and the barrister rose from the table, 
"whenever you want to come to me, I will pay over the 
counter. Cerizet can tell you something about that." 

"What, you are going without taking coffee?" said 
Cerizet in the last throes of amazement. 

"Yes. At eight o'clock I have a professional appoint- 
ment. Anyhow, we have told each other all we had to say: 
you have not the lease, you have your twenty-five thousand 
francs, and Dutocq' s are ready, whenever he shall be pleased 
to present the bills at my office. So I see nothing to prevent 
me from going about my business, and I salute you very 
cordially. ' ' 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 203 

"Oho!" said Cerizet seeing la Peyrade go, "this means 
a rupture!" 

"And it was emphasized as much as possible," remarked 
Dutocq. "With what a grand air he flourished his pocket- 
book!" 

"Yes; but where the devil can he have got the money 
from?" 

"No doubt," replied the clerk of the court ironically, 
"where he got the money to retire the notes which you were 
obliged to surrender so cheaply." 

"My dear Dutocq," said Cerizet, "I will explain to you 
the circumstances under which that insolent wretch released 
himself from me, and you shall see if he has not in fact 
robbed me of fifteen thousand francs." 

"Possibly so, but you, my fine agent, wanted to abstract 
ten thousand from me." 

"Not at all. I was quite formally commissioned to 
buy the debt, and you must admit that my offer had 
mounted to twenty thousand, when our handsome Theo- 
dose came in." 

"At any rate," said Dutocq, "we will go to your house 
from here, and you will give me the drafts, for you under- 
stand that to-morrow, as soon as anybody is astir, I shall 
certainly present myself at the gentleman's office ;„J do not 
want to leave his paying humor time to cool." 

"And you arc right, for I promise you that very soon 
indeed there will be trouble in his life!" 

The two boon companions went into the street together, 
and the man of the Rue des Poules took his friend for their 
coffee to a wretched tavern in the Sa union Arcade. There 
the host recovered his good humor. He was like a fish who 
had been on land, and who had been again thrown into the 



204 BALZAC'S WORKS 

water. Arrived at that stage of degradation in which a man 
is ill at ease in places frequented by decent people, it was 
with a species of glee that Cerizet found himself in his ele- 
ment again, in this hole where a boisterous game of pool 
was being played for the benefit of "a hero of the Bastille." 
Cerizet had the name of an able billiard player in this es- 
tablishment, and was asked to take part in the game just 
begun. In technical language, he "bought a cue," that is 
to say that one of the participants in the tourney sold him 
his place and chances. Dutocq slipped away under cover 
of this incident, saying that he was going to inquire about 
a sick friend. 

Soon after, his coat off and a pipe between his teeth, 
Cerizet had just made one of those royal shots that call 
for the wild demonstrations of the gallery, when his tri- 
umphant air of victory was most direfully dampened. 

From among the onlookers, his chin resting upon his 
walking-cane, du Portail was watching him. A deep flush 
overspread Cerizet's cheeks, who hesitated to bow or to 
recognize such an unlikely person in such an unlikely place. 
But his play suffered so much from his perturbation that 
very soon after a bad stroke threw him out of the game. 
While he was putting his coat on in a rather bad humor, 
du Portail got up, and, raising his elbow as he went out, 
said in a low tone — "Rue Montmartre, at the end of the 
Arcade!" 

When they met, Cerizet had the bad taste to try to 
explain the untidy garb and society in which he had been 
found. 

"But in order to see you there," said du Portail, "I had 
to be there myself." 

"That is true," answered the usurer, "and I am aston 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 205 

ished to find a quiet resident of the Saint-Sulpice district 
in that place." 

"Which proves to you," rejoined du Portail in a tone 
which cut short all explanations and all curiosity, "that I 
am in the habit of going about everywhere, and that my star 
shows me the path of people I want to find; I was thinking 
of you at the moment you came in — Well, what have you 
accomplished ?" 

"Nothing much," said Cerizet. "After playing me a 
miserable trick, and thwarting me in a splendid transaction, 
our man rejected my overtures with utter contempt. There 
is no hope of getting his notes to Dutocq ; la Peyrade seems 
to be in funds, as he wanted to retire his drafts then and 
there, and by to-morrow morning he will certainly have 
redeemed them." 

"So, then, he looks upon his marriage with this Demoi- 
selle Colleville as a certainty?" 

"Not only does he so regard it, but he now maintains 
that it is a marriage for love. He used his eloquence to 
persuade me that he was seriously in love." 

"Very well! I will undertake to tame the gentleman. 
You need only come to see me to-morrow, to inform me 
about the family he expects to enter. You have missed 
one stroke of business, but never mind that, I will find 
others for you." 

Upon which du Portail signed to a passing cab which 
was empty, got in, and giving Cerizet a friendly but pat- 
ronizing nod, directed the driver to the Rue Honore- 
Chevalier. Arrived at the Central Market, Cerizet, still 
puzzling over the solution of his problem, was rudely dis- 
turbed in his meditations by a hard slap on the back. 
Turning round quickly, he found himself confronting Ma- 



206 BALZAC'S WORKS 

dame Cardinal, whose presence in this region, where she 
came every day to supply herself for her traffic, was by no 
means astonishing. 

Since the redoubtable evening at Toupillier's, in spite 
of the clemency vouchsafed, the good woman had thought 
well to make none but very limited appearances at her domi- 
cile, and for two days she had been drowning the sorrows of 
her downfall in strong libations. With a thick tongue and 
an inflamed countenance, she addressed Cerizet — "Well, 
how did you get on with the little old man?" 

"I let him understand in a few words that he and I had 
simply misunderstood each other. In the whole affair, my 
poor Madame Cardinal, you acted with unpardonable im- 
prudence. When you asked my assistance in securing your 
uncle's legacy, did you know that he had a natural child 
to whom he had long ago intended to leave everything by 
will? The little old man who interrupted your absurd at- 
tempt to anticipate the inheritance was no less a person than 
the legatee's guardian." 

"Oh, he is a guardian, is he?" said she. "Oh, they are 
nice people, those guardians, to talk to a woman of my age 
because she wanted to find out if her uncle was going to 
leave her anything — to talk of sending for the rounds! It is 
horrible, it is disgusting!" 

"Come," said Cerizet, "you need not complain, Madame 
Cardinal; you got out of the scrape very well." 

"And what about you, who picked locks and tried to get 
hold of the diamonds, pretending you wanted to marry my 
daughter? And do you think she wanted you— my daugh- 
ter? And a legitimate child, too? And didn't she say to 
me, 'Mother, I will never give my heart to a man with a 
nose like that' ?" 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 207 

"You have found your daughter, then?" 

"Yesterday evening. She has left her rotten play actor, 
and I can flatter myself she is now in a line position, swim- 
ming in money, with her cab by the month, and thought a 
deal of by a lawyer who would marry her at once. But he 
says he must wait for his parents to die, because his father 
is a mayor, and he says the marriage might annoy the gov- 
ernment. His father is mayor of the district, the eleventh 
district, Monsieur Minard, a retired cocoa merchant, tremen- 
dously rich." 

"Yes, to be sure! I know him. And you say Olympe 
is with his son?" 

"That is to say, they don't live together, to avoid gos- 
sip, and he only goes to see her from good motives. He is 
living with his father. Meanwhile they have bought their 
furniture, and put it with my girl in a lodging near the 
Chaussd-d'Antin. Swell part of the town, eh?" 

"But that seems to me a very good arrangement," ap- 
proved Cerizet, "and since, after all, Heaven did not intend 
us for each other — " 

"Yes, that's how it is! And I think the child will be 
a joy to me some day, though there's something I would 
want to ask you about." 

"What is it?" 

"You see, my daughter being well off, it won't do for 
me to call out fish in the streets, and then, as my uncle has 
disinherited me, it seems to me I have a right to a little 
pension." 

"My poor woman, you are dreaming! Your daughter 
is a minor; it is for you to take care of her, and not for her 
to pay you an allowance." 

"Oh, then those who have nothing are to give to those 



208 BALZAC'S WORKS 

who have something!" said Madame Cardinal, waxing ex- 
cited. "A nice thing the law is, just as good as the guar- 
dians who talk about getting the rounds in for nothing. 
Well, then, let him get his rounds! Let him have my head 
cut off! That won't stop me from saying that the rich are 
all thieves, and that the people ought to have a revolution 
to get back their rights! And then, my boy, you, my 
daughter, Minard the lawyer, and the little guardian, you 
will all get nothing!" 

Seeing his ex-mother-in-law arrived at an altogether 
alarming pitch of agitation, Cerizet speedily quitted her, 
and even at a distance of fifty paces was pursued with loud 
epithets, which he inwardly swore to visit on her the next 
time she should come to his bank in the Rue des Poules 
for "accommodation." 

As he reached his house, Cerizet, who was anything 
rather than brave, was startled by a figure in ambush near 
the door, by some one who came forward as if to meet 
him. Happily, it was only Dutocq, who had come for la 
Peyrade's bills of exchange. Cerizet handed them over 
with a bad enough grace, demurring at the suspicions that 
so early a visit implied. 

Dutocq took no notice of the other worthy's wounded 
soul, and the next day, at an early hour, presented himself 
at la Peyrade's. 

The Provencal paid on the nail, and to the sentimental 
utterances that Dutocq gave way to when he felt the money 
in his pocket he responded with marked coldness. Every- 
thing in his manner betrayed the slave who has broken his 
chains, and who proposes to put his liberty to no especially 
pious purpose. Taking his creditor to the door, the latter 
found himself face to face with a woman dressed like a ser- 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 2U9 

vant, about to ring la Peyrade's bell. The woman seemed 
to be an acquaintance of Dutocq's, for he said to her — 

"Ah, my little woman, we feel the need of consulting a 
lawyer, do we? You are right, some strange things were 
said about you at the family council." 

"I am afraid of no one, thank God, and I can walk with 
my head up," answered the person so addressed. 

"So much the better!" said the magistrate's clerk. "So 
much the better ! But you will probably soon be summoned 
to appear before the judge in charge of the case. However, 
you are in good hands; friend la Peyrade will give you the 
best of advice." 

' 'Monsieur is mistaken, ' ' replied the servant. ' ' I have not 
come to consult this gentleman for the reason you think." 

"Anyhow, be careful, my dear woman, for I warn you 
that you will be egregiously plucked. The relations are 
furious with you, and it will be impossible to persuade them 
you are not very rich." 

So saying, Dutocq had fixed bis eye on Theodose, who, 
ill at ease under this gaze, asked his client to step in. 

Here is what had happened the day before, between this 
woman and la Peyrade. 

He, it will be remembered, was in the habit of going to 
early Mass every morning at his parish church. For some 
time he had found himself the object of singular and inex- 
plicable attention on the part of the woman we have seen 
enter his room. Had she lost her heart to him ? This solu- 
tion was incompatible with the mature age and devout air of 
the pietist, who, under her close-fitting Jansenist cap, still 
worn by a few fervent members of that sect in the Saint- 
Jacques district, made a profession of keeping her hair in- 
visible, like a nun. On the other hand, clothes of almost 



210 BALZAC'S WORKS 

fastidious neatness, and a gold cross she wore at the neck 
by a black velvet ribbon, excluded the idea of timid, hesi 
tating mendicity unable to embolden itself to a confession. 
The morning of the day on which the dinner at the Bocher 
de Cancale was to take place, la Peyrade, tired of the 
woman's manoeuvres, had himself accosted her, asking her 
if she had any request to make. 

"Is Monsieur, 1 ' came the answer, in accents of mystery, 
"the celebrated Monsieur de la Peyrade, the advocate of 
the poor?" 

"I am la Peyrade, and I happen to have occasionally 
pleaded for some of the poor of this district." 

"Would you then be kind enough, Monsieur, to grant 
me an interview ?" 

"The place," objected la Peyrade, "is not well chosen. 
What you have to tell me seems to be important, since you 
have been hovering about me for some time. I live close 
by, Rue Saint-Dominique-d'Enfer, and if you will take the 
trouble to come to my office — '.' 

"It shall not put you out, Monsieur?" 

"Not in the least. My buisness is to attend to my 
clients." 

"At what hour — not to inconvenience Monsieur?" 

"Whenever you please. I shall be at home all the 
morning." 

"Well, then, I shall hear another Mass and take the 
Sacrament. I would not have dared to at this one for 
thinking constantly of Monsieur. After prayers I can be 
at your house at eight, if that will suit." 

"Yes, that will do. And there is no necessity for so 
much ceremony," la Peyrade concluded, with a touch of 
petulance. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 211 

At the hour stated, neither a minute sooner, nor a minute 
later, the pietist rang the barrister's bell, who, after experi- 
encing some difficulty in inducing her to sit down, asked her 
to give the facts of her case. 

The religious woman then had one of those convenient 
coughing fits which create a respite when one has an awk- 
ward subject to discuss. Finally, making up her mind 
to divulge the object of her visit, she began — "1 wanted to 
inquire, sir, whether it might be true that a very charitable 
gentleman, who is now dead, left a fund to reward servants 
who are faithful to their masters." 

"Yes, Monsieur de Montyon founded prizes for good 
conduct, which, it is true, are often bestowed on industri- 
ous and irreproachable domestics. But good conduct is not 
sufficient. To be entitled to the reward, acts of extraordi- 
nary devotion must have been performed, and really Chris- 
tian self-sacrifice practiced." 

"Religion," answered the pietest, "tells us to be humble, 
and I certainly would not think of speaking in my own 
praise but that for over twenty years I have been in the 
service of an old man, the stupidest old man, who has 
squandered all his money on inventions, and whom I am 
obliged to feed, and but that some people have thought I 
might not be quite unworthy of the prize." 

"It is on such terms that the Academy bases its choice 
of candidates. What is your master's name ?" 

"Father Picot. He is never called anything else, lie 
goes out dressed up as though it were carnival time, and the 
children gather about him, and call out, 'Good-day, Father 
Picot! Good-day, Father Picot!' But that is how he is; 
he does not care what people think of him. He goes about 
with his head full of his ideas, and it is no use my serving 



212 BALZAC'S WORKS 

him up a dainty little dinner. You might ask him what 
he has been eating, he could not tell you. A clever man 
though, and one who has turned out good scholars. Per- 
haps you may know young Monsieur Phellion, who teaches 
at the Saint-Louis College? He still comes for lessons 
frequently." 

"Then," asked la Peyrade, "your master is a mathe- 
matician ? ' ' 

"Yes, sir; it is mathematics that ruined him. He gave 
himself up to a lot of ideas in which there seems to be no 
sense, after first spoiling his eyesight at the observatory, 
near here, where he was employed for many years." 

"You would have to get some testimonials attesting your 
long devotion to this old gentleman, after which I would 
draw you up a memorandum for the Academy, and would 
take the other steps." 

"How good you are, sir," said the pietist, clasping her 
hands, "and if I might make so bold as to mention a slight 
difficulty — " 

"What is your difficulty?" 

"I have been told that to get a prize one must be quite 
poor. ' ' 

"Not exactly that. However, the Academy makes it a 
point to select persons in bad circumstances, and such as 
have made sacrifices beyond their means." 

-I flatter myself that I have made sacrifices, when a 
little legacy I inherited from my parents went all into 
housekeeping expenses, and when for more than fifteen 
years I have not been given a sou of wages, which at three 
hundred francs a year and compound interest would make 
a comfortable amount." 

At the mention of compound interest, which pointed to 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 218 

a certain degree of financial ability, la Pejrade looked at 
this modern Antigone more closely. 

"But what about the difficulty you refer to?" 

Said the pious individual: ''It is about a very rich 
uncle, who never did anything for his family in his life- 
time, having died in England, and having left me twenty-five 
thousand francs in his will." 

"Certainly, there is nothing but what is natural and 
perfectly legitimate about that." 

"Very well, sir, but I have nevertheless been informed 
that it might do me harm in the courts." 

"That may be so, because, being better off now, the sac- 
rifices you no doubt intend to continue for the benefit of 
your master would be somewhat less meritorious." 

"Of course I shall never leave the poor man, in spite of 
his faults, although the little sum I have been left is in 
great danger." 

"How so?" la Peyrade was impelled to ask from 
curiosity. 

"Oh, sir, he only need get a sniff of my money, and 
it will be all gone into his inventions of perpetual motion, 
and all sorts of machines that have alreadv ruined him, and 
me too." 

"I understand, then, that your desire concerning the 
Academy and your master is, that the legacy you have 
inherited should remain secret?" 

"What an able man Monsieur is, and how well he com- 
prehends things!" said the pietist smiling. 

"On the other hand, however," continued the barrister, 
"you do not propose to keep the money about you?" 

"So that my master may find it and lay his hands on it? 
Besides, you will understand that for the sake of giving him 



214 BALZAC'S WORKS 

a few dainties — the good man — I would not object to the 
money bearing interest." 

"And the highest interest possible, I suppose?" added 
the barrister. 

"Not less than five or six per cent." 

"I see. It is on account of a requisition to have the 
prize for good conduct awarded you, and on account of the 
investment to be made, that you have desired to consult me 
for so long a time ?" 

"Monsieur is so good, so kind, so encouraging!" 

"After a few inquiries on my part, the prize will be an 
easy matter, but as for the investment being made with ab- 
solute safety, and strict secrecy being observed, that is much 
more difficult to advise you about." 

"Oh, if I might venture," said the pietist. 

"To do what?" asked la Peyrade. 

"You understand me, sir — ?" 

"I? Not in the very least." 

"I have been praying very hard in Church, just now, 
that Monsieur might take the money from me. I would 
trust him entirely to give it back to me, and not to speak 
of it." 

At this moment he was reaping the fruit of his comedy 
of devotion to the poor and needy. The chorus of old 
women in the district, lifting his virtues to the skies, had 
created this unlimited confidence toward him in the pious 
servant. He at once thought of Dutocq, and was not far 
from believing that this woman had been sent to him by 
Providence itself. He therefore decided to play a bold 
game. 

"My dear woman," said he, "I am in no need of money, 
and am not rich enough to pay you without loss to myself 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 215 

your interest on twenty-five thousand francs. All I can do 
is to deposit it in my own name with the notary Dupuis. 
He is a good man, and you can see him on Sundays on the 
official bench in our parish church. Notaries, you know, 
do not give receipts, nor would I give you one, but will 
only promise to leave such information among my papers, 
in case of my death, as would secure you repayment of the 
money. You see it is a question of blind confidence, and 
at that I undertake it unwillingly, and purely to oblige a 
person who particularly commends herself to my favor, 
because of her piety and the charitable uses she intends to 
put her small fortune to." 

"If the matter cannot be arranged otherwise — " 
"That is all I think it possible to do,'' said la Peyrade. 
"However, I do not despair of finding you six per cent of 
interest, and you may count on its being paid you with 
utmost punctuality. Only, six months or a year might 
possibly ellipse before the notary might be able to refund 
the capital, because the funds which notaries invest in 
mortgages are generally locked up for a more or less long- 
peri od. Now, after you have been awarded the prize for 
good conduct, which there seems to be little doubt of my 
obtaining you, as you will then no longer have to conceal 
your little hoard — which it is of course in your interest to 
do at present — I must warn you that any indiscretion on 
your part would result in the money being handed back 
to you at once. Nor should I then hesitate to publish 
the way in which you kept your legacy secret from 
the master to whom you were supposed to be so entirely 
faithful. This, you see, would expose you as an im- 
postor, and would hurt your reputation for saintliness 
very much." 



216 BALZAC'S WORKS 

••Oh, sir," exclaimed the pietist, "can you believe I am 
a woman who would say what one ought not to ?" 

"Dear me! my good woman, even in business every- 
thing must be thought of; money matters make the best of 
friends quarrel, and lead to quite unforeseen complications. 
Therefore, you had better reflect, and come back and see 
me in a few days. You may possibly come to a better con- 
clusion by that time, and I, who would be rather lightly 
accepting such a responsibility, may perhaps have dis- 
covered further objections to the arrangement, which at 
this moment do not occur to me." 

This adroit and final threat was to bring about the de- 
sired result at once. 

"I have thought it all out," said the woman; "with so 
religious a person as Monsieur there is no risk whatever.'' 
And drawing a small pocketbook from the bosom of her 
dress, she produced twenty-five thousand francs in bank- 
notes. 

It was with this money in his pocket that he repaired to 
the Rocher de Cancale, and perhaps it was to the many 
violent emotions that he had felt during that day that was 
due the sharp and hasty conduct which had brought about 
the rupture with his two associates. This ill-advised be- 
havior accorded neither with his natural disposition nor 
with his acquired manner; but the money which he was 
carrying in his pocket, all hot, had gone to his head, and 
its possession had given him a haughty spirit of indepen- 
dence which he could not repress. He had thus thrown 
Ccrizet out of the window without even consulting Brigitte; 
and, nevertheless, he had not the courage of his duplicity, 
since he had ascribed to the old maid a decision which 
emanated from his own imagination, and from his bitter 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 217 

resentment toward the man who had so long held dominion 
over him. 

To conclude: All through this day la Peyrade had not 
maintained himself as the perfect and infallible individual 
we have seen him up to now. Once already, as the bearer 
of the fifteen thousand francs which Thuillier had in- 
trusted him with, he had been drawn into an irregular 
transaction, which, as its sequel, had necessitated the daring 
exploit with Sauvaignou. 

In the long run, it is perhaps more difficult to be strong 
in good fortune than in bad. The Farnese Hercules, in his 
calm attitude of repose, more vigorously expresses the 
plenitude of his muscular power than all the other Hercules 
in violent action, represented in the throes of their labors. 



(Jj— Vol. 16 



218 BALZAC'S WORKS 



PART THE SECOND 

T)ETWEEN the two parts of this narrative a stupendous 
-^ event has occurred in the life of Phellion. There is 
nobody who has not heard of the misfortunes of the Odeon, 
that ill-fated theatre which for many years was the ruin of 
all its managers. Right or wrong, the people of the district 
in which this dramatic paradox is situated are convinced 
that it is bound up with their own prosperity, and more than 
once the mayor and his satellites have made heroic attempts, 
redounding to their honor and glory, to galvanize the corpse. 
To be in touch with theatrical concerns is an ambition 
always aglow in the bosoms of the lower middle class, so 
that the successive saviors of the Odeon thought themselves 
grandly recompensed whenever they were given even the 
semblance of a part in the management of that enterprise. 
It was in this sort of connection that Minard, in his capacity 
of mayor of the eleventh district, had been called to the 
chair of the reading committee, with power to appoint 
assistants from a number of notabilities of the Latin Quar- 
ter at his own choice. 

The exact progress of la Peyrade's designs upon Ce- 
leste's dowry will soon be revealed. But for the present 
let it be said that these designs, advancing toward maturity, 
had naturally been talked about, and as they seemed to 
antagonize both the candidature of young Minard the barris- 
ter, as well as that of Felix the schoolmaster, the hostility 
once manifested by Minard senior against old Phellion was 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 219 

now transformed into an unequivocal disposition in favor of 
friendly relations. Nothing binds men so closely together 
and soothes their differences so well as the sense of a com- 
mon repulse. Judged without the blindness due to paternal 
rivalry, Phellion was to Minard a noble Roman of incor- 
ruptible integrit} r , and a man whose little pamphlets had 
been approved of by the University; that is to say, a man 
of sound and tried intellect. 

When, therefoie, it devolved upon the mayor to select 
a staff for his dramatic chamber of inquisition, he had at 
once thought of Phellion, and as for that great citizen, the 
day when a place was tendered him on the august tribunal, 
he felt as if a golden crown had been placed upon his brow. 
It will readily be understood that it was not lightly, and 
not without profound meditation, that a man of Phellion s 
weight had accepted the high and holy post of authoritv 
offered him. He told himself that he would be fillin<>- 
judicial, ay, sacerdotal functions. 

"To judge men," he had replied to Minard, who was 
surprised at his long hesitation, "is a terrible task in itself; 
bat to judge intellects — who can believe himself qualified 
for such a mission?" 

Once again his family, the rock that threatens all splen- 
did resolutions, had undertaken to override his scruple-, 
and the consideration of the boxes and the tickets, which 
the future member of the reading committee would be able 
to dispose of for their benefit, had aroused his dear ones to 
such an ardent state of fermentation that his moral indepen- 
dence had seemed threatened for a moment. But happily 
Brutus had been able to come to a decision to which he was 
urged by a veritable revolt of the whole Phellion tribe. 
Upon the remarks of Barniol, his son-in-law, and also from 



220 BALZAC'S WORKS 

personal inspiration, he persuaded himself that by always 
voting for works of unimpeachable morality, and of barring 
the way to every piece to which a mother could not take 
her daughter, he was called to render a signal service to 
public morality and order. 

Phellion, to use his own language, had thus become a 
member of the Areopagus under Minard's presidency, and 
he was coming from a meeting at which he had been exer- 
cising these exalted functions, as interesting as they were 
delicate, when the conversation took place which we are 
about to record. It is indispensable to the comprehension 
of events which happened in this story, and throws into full 
relief the sentiment of envy which is one of the most salient 
characteristics of the middle class. 

The session of the committee had been very stormy. 
At the reading of a tragedy called "The Death of Her- 
cules," the classical party and the romantic party, carefully 
balanced by the mayor in his selection of the committee, 
had not been far from coming to blows. Twice Phellion 
had asked for the floor, and great was the astonishment of 
his colleagues at the wealth of metaphor that may flow from 
a speech by the major of the National Guard when his 
literary convictions are threatened. After the vote, victory 
accruing to the cause which Phellion had so eloquently 
championed, he said to Minard, as they walked down the 
stair of the theatre together — "We have done good work 
to-day! That 'Death of Hercules' reminded me very 
strongly of the 'Death of Hector,' by the late Luce de 
Lancival; the play we have just accepted is enamelled 
with sublime verses." 

"Yes," said Minard, "it is versified with good taste; 
there are some fine sentences in it, and I confess that I 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 221 

place literature of that kind rather above our friend Colle- 
ville's anagrams." 

••Oh," said Phellion, ''Colleville's anagrams are mere 
mental playthings, and have nothing in common with the 
grave message of Melpomene." 

"But, I can tell you, he attaches extreme importance to 
these playthings, and regarding his anagrams, as in many 
other things, the noble musician has taken a lot of credit to 
himself. Anyhow, since their emigration to the Madeleine 
district, it seems to me that not only Sire Colleville, but his 
wife and daughter, the Thuilliers, and the whole collection 
of them, have assumed airs of importance not easy to ac- 
count for." 

"What can you expect ? One must have a strong head 
to withstand the intoxicating fumes of opulence! Our 
friends have become very rich by the purchase of the 
house they decided to live in; they must be allowed a 
moment of dizziness. You cannot deny that the dinner 
they gave us yesterday as a house warming was really as 
well served as it was succulent." 

'•I, too," said Minard, "can flatter myself at having 
given some noteworthy dinners, which influential men in 
the government did not despise, but I did not on that ac- 
count puff myself up beyond measure. As I was known 
to be, so I remained." 

"You, sir, have long been accustomed to the luxurious 
life which your eminent commercial capacities brought you. 
Our friends, on the contrary, yesterday's passengers on the 
smiling vessel of Fortune, have not yet, as the siving goes, 
got their sea legs." 

And in order to cut short a conversation in which PI 
lion found thai the mayor was Incoming caustic, he stopped 



222 BALZAC'S WORKS 

to take leave of him. Their houses did not lie in the same 
direction.- 

"Are you going across the Luxembourg?" asked 
Minard, not wanting to be behind-hand in politeness. 

"I go across, but I go no further. I have promised to 
meet Madame Phellion at the end of the grand avenue, 
where she is waiting for me with the little Barniols." 

"In that case," rejoined Minard, "I shall have the 
pleasure of making my bow to Madame Phellion, and at 
the same time I shall take a little airing, for though it is 
pleasant to listen to fine things, the brain becomes fatigued 
at the business we have just been pursuing." 

Minard rightly perceived that Phellion was unready to 
respond to his rather bitter remarks touching the new Thuil- 
lier establishment. He did not, therefore, try to resume 
the subject with him, but when he had secured Madame 
Phellion for a listener, very sure that his views would find 
more sympathy — "Well, fair lady," said he, "that dinner 
yesterday — what did you think of it?" 

"It was remarkably good," answered Madame Phellion, 
"and as soon as the bisk soup came on I noticed that some 
great artist like Chevet had replaced the ordinary cook. But 
there was a want of jollity; it was less genial than our little 
parties in the Latin Quarter; and, then, have you not ob- 
served that neither Madame nor Mademoiselle Thuillier 
seems to be the mistress of the house? I really began to 
think that I was at Madame — What do you call her? I 
have not yet been able to get her name into my head." 

"Torna, Countess de Godollo," interposed Phellion, 
"the name is certainly most euphonious." 

"As euphonious as you like, my friend, but to me 
it does not sound like a name at all." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 223 

"It is a Magyar name; or, to speak more vulgarly, a 
Hungarian name. As for ours, if one wanted to poke fun 
at it, one might say it seemed to have been borrowed from 
the Greek." 

"Possibly so," said Madame Phellion, "but we have the 
advantage of being known, not only in our own .district, 
but in the whole world of learning, where we have reached 
an honorable position, while this Hungarian Countess, who 
makes rain and sunshine at the Thuilliers, where does she 
come from ? How, with her noble manners — for one cannot 
deny her those, and she is a very distinguished-looking wo- 
man — how did she contrive to fall in love with Brigitte, who 
smells of the soil and the porter's lodge to a degree that is 
nauseating ? My belief is, that this devoted friend is a 
scheming adventuress, who scents a fortuue, and has some 
little enterprise of her own in the background." 

"Oh, then," said Minard, "you are still ignorant of the 
beginning of the friendship between the Countess Godollo 
and the Thuilliers." 

"She is one of their tenants, and lives on the floor 
below them." 

"Very true, but there are other details. Zelie, my wife, 
has them from Josephine, who at the time wanted to enter 
our service, although she did not come, because our Fran- 
coise decided to stay. Let me tell you, my dear lady, that 
it is altogether to Madame de Godollo that the Thuillier emi- 
gration is to be attributed. At the time that Mademoiselle 
Thuillier, upon la Peyrade's advice, decided to undertake 
the management of the house near the Madeleine, that 
young gentleman, who has less influence over her than 
he makes out, failed to persuade her to move into the 
grand apartment we visited yesterday. Mademoiselle Bri- 



224 BALZAC'S WORKS 

gitfce objected to changing her habits, and to living so far 
away from her friends." 

"Certainly," interrupted Madame Phellion, "for the 
price of a carriage every Sunday we must have different 
pleasures in prospect than such as the Thuilliers provide. 
To think that, excepting at the hop for the election to the 
general council, they never thought of opening their piano!" 

"We would indeed," said Minard, "have been charmed 
to see a talent like yours sometimes called into requisition, 
but those are not the sort of ideas to occur to that dear Bri- 
gitte. To her, that would have meant two more candles to 
light. The five-franc pieces, that is her music. And you 
understand that when la Peyrade and Thuillier urged her 
to leave the Rue Saint-Dominique-d'Enfer, she was greatly 
exercised over the expense that the removal would entail. 
She judged correctly that under gilded ceilings her old fur- 
niture would look very singular." 

"See how everything develops from something else," 
cried Phellion, "and how from the summit of society, filter- 
ing down to the lower classes, wealth sooner or later brings 
about the fall of empires." 

"There, my dear major," Minard resumed, "you are 
trenching upon one of the most interesting questions of 
Political Economy. Many keen minds believe, on the con- 
trary, that wealth is a very useful thing to make commerce 
move, which is certainly the life of every country. But in 
either case, that point of view, which is not yours, seems 
to be Madame de Godollo's, for her rooms are said to be 
exquisitely furnished. To drag Mademoiselle Thuillier 
into her own road of elegance, this is what she suggested to 
her: 'One of my friends, a Russian princess, for whom one 
of the best upholsterers in Paris has recently designed a 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 22l 

magnificent set of furniture, has suddenly been called away 
by the Czar, a gentleman who will not take a joke. So the 
poor woman is obliged to turn everything that she has into 
cash, and I am sure would sell the set for a quarter of the 
cost price, for ready money. Everything is nearly new, and 
there are even things that have never been used.' 

"So," exclaimed Madame Phellion, "all that splendor 
exhibited to our eyes last night is cheap second-hand 
splendor!" 

"It is, as you say, Madame," Minard went on; "and 
what moved Mademoiselle Brigitte to take this glittering 
chance was not so much the desire for new furniture as 
the idea of a good bargain. Thus you see, that if the bar- 
rister pushed his way into Brigitte's favor by managing the 
purchase of the house for her, it is through bidding for 
the furniture that the stranger has obtained her foothold." 

"It seems to me," said Madame Phellion, "that the 
Countess took the liberty of contradicting the barrister, 
an*d that she even did so rather sharply." 

"Oh, it was very marked," replied Minard, "and he is 
aware of it, too. Her hostility seems to trouble him very 
much. He was making a good thing out of the Thuilliers, 
who, between ourselves, are rather stupid; but he now finds 
that he has a powerful foe, and is anxiously looking for a 
vulnerable spot." 

"Well," said Madame Phellion, "it is only justice! For 
some time that gentleman, who used to do the modest and 
the humble, had been taking on intolerable airs of control 
over their affairs. He openly played at son-in-law, and, in 
fact, in the matter of Thuillier's election played us all a 
trick, when he made us the footstool of his matrimonial 
ambitions." 



2'26 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"Quite so,' said Minard; "but at present, I can assure 
you, the gentleman is at a discount. Nor will he every 
day be able to buy for 'his dear friend, 1 as he calls him, 
a million's worth of property for an old song." 

"Do you say they got this house cheap ?" asked Madame 
Phellion. 

"They got it for nothing through a contemptible piece 
of underhand business, as I was told the other day by 
Desroches, the attorney, and which might even compro 
mise our barrister friend very gravely, if it were known 
to the council of the Barristers' Association. Then, there 
is the election for the Chamber in prospect. Thuillier's ap- 
petite is becoming voracious, but he already perceives that 
Monsieur de la Peyrade will not find it so easy to cut him 
that slice of the cake, if it involves duping us again. It 
is for that reason they have turned to Madame de Godollo, 
who appears to be highly connected m political circles. 
But without mentioning the election at all, which is still 
far off, tbe Countess de Godollo is making herself more 
useful to Brigitte day by day, for it must be acknowledged 
that, without that great lady's help, the poor creature in 
her gilded drawing-room would look like a rag in a bride's 
wedding trunk." 

"Oh, Monsieur Minard, how cruel you are!" said Ma- 
dame Phellion mincingly. 

"But really," he went on, "ask yourself conscientiously 
does Brigitte or does Madame Thuillier know how to enter- 
tain in a large house? It is the Hungarian who superin- 
tended all the arrangements; it is she who engaged the foot- 
man whose neat appearance and intelligence you noticed ; it 
is she who yesterday made out the bill of fare; she is in fact 
the guardian angel of the establishment, which without her 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 227 

assistance would have been the laughing-stock of the whole 
district. And what is very singular, instead of being, as 
you first thought her, a parasite of the same species as the 
Provencal, this foreigner, who even seems to own a private 
fortune, proves herself not only disinterested but generous. 
Brigitte's dress and Madame Thuillier's, by which you were 
all struck, were presents from her, and it is because she her- 
self presided in the dressing-room of our two hostesses that 
you were so surprised not to tind them looking like scare- 
crows, as usual." 

"But what may the motive be," said Madame P hellion, 
"of such friendship and devotion?" 

"My dear wife," pompously declaimed Phellion, "human 
actions are not, thank God, always founded on selfishness 
and personal interest. There are still some few who delight 
in doing good for its own sake. Perhaps this lady saw in 
our friends people who might stumble in the ascent to the 
high sphere they are trying to attain, and after guiding their 
footsteps to the purchase of the furniture, as a nurse leads 
her charge, may now take pleasure in sheltering them with 
the protection of her knowledge and advice." 

"You are full of illusions, my dear major," laughed 
Minard, as he bade the Phellions good -day, "but they are 
worthy illusions, and I envy you them." 

The mayor of the eleventh •district had spoken correctly 
both as to the transaction concerning the furniture and the 
stranger's influence in the Thuillier household. The Hun- 
garian Countess was a woman of great tact and tine educa- 
tion, and when she assumed the direction of her friend's 
affairs, she had taken special care to avoid any appearance 
of arbitrariness. On the contrary, she flattered Brigitte's 
pretensions of being a model housekeeper, and affected t© 



228 BALZAC'S WORKS 

seek her advice in the management of her own housekeep- 
ing, so that she appeared to desire mutual aid and co-opera- 
tion rather than authority and power. Nor was ia Peyrade 
blind to his rival's growing ascendency. Frankly opposing 
his suit for Celeste's hand, she supported that of Felix no 
less uncompromisingly; and Minard, whom this fact bad not 
escaped, had taken the precaution to withhold it from those 
it most concerned, in the course of his long disquisition. 
La Peyrade was the more vexed at knowing his position 
thus undermined, and for quite unaccountable reasons, as 
he had himself been instrumental in giving the enemy the 
key to the fortress. His first fault had been to yield to the 
empty satisfaction of thwarting Cerizet from becoming chief 
tenant. Furthermore, if upon his recommendation Brigitte 
had not undertaken the management of the property, it 
would have been safe to wager that she would never have 
made the acquaintance of Madame de Godollo. But these 
were not his only mistakes. And his crowning error had 
been — it ultimately became evident— to urge the Thuilliers' 
removal from their humble home in the Latin Quarter. 

At that time, when Theodose was at the zenith of his 
power over their hearts, he looked upon his marriage as an 
incontrovertible fact of the future and evinced an almost 
childish haste to rush into the fashionable and elegant 
sphere which now seemed opened to his ambition. He 
had thus abetted the Hungarian's promptings. He felt as 
though he was sending the Thuilliers on in advance to make 
his bed in the fine apartment he was one day to occupy with 
them. In this arrangement he had seen another advantage 
— that of interfering with Celeste's almost daily meetings 
with a rival evidently not to be despised. No longer living 
at a convenient distance, Felix would be obliged to diminish 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 229 

the number of his visits, and it would then be easier to 
damage his cause with one whose favor he only held on con- 
dition of satisfactory religious views. The Provencal, by 
widening the horizon of the Thuilliers, was taking the risk 
of introducing competitors for the exclusive admiration of 
which hitherto he had been the object. In the provincial at- 
mosphere they breathed, in default of any standard of com- 
parison, Brigitte and her brother naturally placed him on a 
pedestal from which other divinities of a new social world 
would not fail to dislodge him, so that, independently of 
Madame de Godollo's effective machinations, the colonizimr 
idea was a bad one as far as the Thuilliers were concerned, 
and regarding the Collevilles not much better. The Colle 
villes had followed their friends in the house near the Made- 
leine, where a rear flat had been leased them at a price 
within reach of their income. But Colleville found the 
apartment badly aired and lighted, and, now obliged to 
travel a considerable distance to his office every morning, 
he grumbled at the change, and occasionally vented his 
opinion that la Peyrade was turning tyrant. In addition, 
in order to keep up with the style of the quarter where she 
I) ad taken up her residence, Madame Colleville had indulged 
in a stupendous debauch of hats, cloaks, and new dresses, 
which, as they resulted in the presentation of a quantity of 
large bills, conduced to frequent domestic upheavals. Ce- 
leste, no doubt, had fewer opportunities of seeing young 
P hellion, but she also had less occasions to be drawn into 
religious controversies with him, and absence, which is only 
a peril to weak attachments, made her think more tenderly 
and less theologically of the man of her choice. But these 
false calculations on the part of The*odose were as nothing 
compared to another cloud which darkened his star. By 



230 BALZAC'S WORKS 

dint of an advance of ten thousand francs, to which Thuillier 
had resigned himself with a very good grace, the barrister 
had led him to believe that in a week he could procure him 
the Cross of the Legion of Honor, and thus fulfil the secret 
wish of his whole life. Now, nearly two months had gone 
by without a sign of that pretty toy. The former assistant 
chief, who would so blissfully have promenaded his red 
rosette on the pavement of the Boulevard Madeleine, which 
he assiduously frequented, had still to be content with the 
flowers of the field to adorn his buttonhole, a privilege open 
to everybody, and of which there was no reason to be proud. 
True, that la Peyrade had spoken of an unforeseen and in- 
comprehensible obstacle, which had set at naught all the 
kind efforts of the Countess de Bruel; but Thuillier made 
very little of this explanation, and in his bitter disappoint- 
ment he was often inclined to say, like Chicaneau in the 
"Plaideurs," "Then, pay the money back!" However, the 
explosion was averted, because la Peyrade held him at bay 
with the famous treatise on taxation and redemption, whose 
composition had been interrupted by the bustle of the re- 
moval. During that exciting period, Thuillier had not been 
able to give his time to the revision of the proofs, over 
which, it will be remembered, he had reserved himself the 
right of minute criticism. Understanding that to restore 
his fast waning influence he must strike a decisive blow, it 
was just this pettifogging disposition upon which the bar- 
rister hoped to base a deep and bold scheme. 

One day, when they were at the last pages of the treatise, 
a discussion arose about the word nepotism, Thuillier alleg- 
ing that he had never seen this word written anywhere, and 
that it ought to be neologism; that is to say, according to 
middle class literary ideas, something equivalent to 1793 and 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 281 

the Eeign of Terror. Usually, la Peyrade took the absard 
comments of his "dear friend" in good part, but that day he 
lost his temper, gave Thuillier to understand that he might 
finish the task by himself which he criticised with such 
a luminous and intelligent spirit, and for several days re- 
mained out of sight. ' Thuillier first suspected a passing fit of 
ill humor. But la Peyrade's absence continuing, he began 
to feel the necessity of conciliatory overtures, and went to 
the Provencal's house, to make amends and end the quarrel. 
But, wishing to come out of the engagement with his pride 
unscathed, he said in an airy manner as he went into the 
room — "Well, my dear fellow, we were both right. Nepo- 
tism means the authority assumed in affairs by the nephews of 
the popes. I searched the dictionary, which gives no other 
definition. But, according to what Phellion told me, it seemed 
that in political language the word has been extended to mean 
the influence that corrupt ministers have allowed to be exer- 
cised upon them. So I think we may let the expression 
stand, though it is not used in the same way by Landais." 

La Peyrade, who, while his visitor was talking, pretended 
to be very busy with his briefs, merely shrugged his shoul- 
ders and made no reply. 

"Well," said Thuillier, "have you the proofs of the last 
two sheets ? There is not much time to lose." 

"If you sent nothing to the printers," answered la Pey- 
rade, "there can be no proofs. As for me, I have not added 
a word to the manuscript. ' ' 

"But, my dear Theodose," remonstrated Thuillier, 
"surely you are not mounting the high horse because of 
such a small matter! I do not fancy myself a writer, only, 
as the book will bear my signature, I think I am entitled to 
an opinion on one word." 



232 BALZAC'S WORKS 

'But, Monsieur Phellion," retorted the barrister, "is a 
writer, and since you have consulted him, I cannot see why 
you do not engage him to finish the work with you. I. for 
my part, have resolved to stop collaborating." 

"Heavens! what a temper!" exclaimed Brigitte's brother. 
"Here you are in a rage, because I appear to have been in 
doubt as to the meaning of a word, and have consulted some 
one. You know very well that I have read out passages to 
Phellion, Colleville, Minard, and Barniol, as if the work 
were mine, to see what effect it will have on the public ; but 
that is no reason why I should publish under my name any 
opinions they see fit to offer. Do you want to know the 
greatness of my confidence in you ? Madame de Godollo, 
to whom I read a few pages last night, told me that such a 
pamphlet might draw the attention of the public prosecutor 
upon me. Do you think that has made me stop ?" 

"I do think," said la Peyrade ironically, "that the oracle 
of the house sees things very clearly, and I have no desire 
to bring your head to the block." 

"All that is nonsense. Are you or are you not going to 
leave me in the lurch?" 

"Literary disputes," averred the barrister, "divorce the 
best friends even more effectually than political sentiments, 
and I want to remove every provocation to argument be- 
tween us." 

"But, my dear Theodose, I have never posed as a man 
of letters. I believe I have good common-sense, and I speak 
my mind. You cannot scold me for that, and certainly, if 
you play me the mean trick of stopping to collaborate, I 
must conclude you have some other grievance against me 
that I know nothing of." 

"I do not see any mean trick. Nothing will be easier 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 233 

than for you not to issue a pamphlet. You will be Jerome 
Thuillier just as before." 

"But it seems to me that it was yourself who judged its 
publication would be of advantage to my election. And 
then, as I repeat, I have read parts of it to our friends. In 
the municipal council I virtually announced its appearance, 
and if the work does not appear now, I shall stand dis- 
honored. They will say the government bribed me." 

"You need only say that you are the friend of Phellion 
the incorruptible, that will answer for everything. You might 
even give Celeste to his nincompoop of a son, and the relation- 
ship would be a better protection still against suspicion." 

"Theodose," then said Thuillier, "there is something 
you have not told me. It is unnatural that, because of a 
dispute about the meaning of a word, you want to ruin the 
friend of your choice." 

"Well, then," said la Peyrade, after a moment's hesita- 
tion, "I do not like ingratitude." 

"Nor do I," responded Thuillier, with animation, "and 
if you are accusing me of anything so base and vile, I de- 
mand an explanation. What is it you complain of? What 
fault have you to find with the man you still called your 
friend a few days ago ?" 

"Everything is the matter, and nothing. You and your 
sister are far too knowing to quarrel with one who, at the 
risk of losing his good name, has put a million into your 
hands. But I am not so innocent as not to see through 
things. There are individuals about you plotting to com- 
pass my destruction, and Brigitte's only concern is, to find 
some decent way of not keeping her promises. Men like me 
do not press a claim of this sort, but I admit I was far from 
expecting such treatment." 



234 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"Come, come," said Thuillier kindly, quite deceived by 
the tear that glistened in Theodose's eye, "I do not know 
what Brigitte may have been doing to you, but one thing 
is certain — which is, that I never have ceased to be your 
sincerest friend." 

"No," said Theodose, "since I failed to get you the 
Cross, I am only good enough to be thrown to the dogs. 
Can I light against hidden powers ? Who knows but what 
this very pamphlet, which you have been talking about far 
too much, is the impediment ? Those ministers are such 
fools that they would rather wait to have their hand forced 
by the stir your publication will make than simply reward 
your services now with a good grace. But political ameni- 
ties of that kind would not be reckoned upon by your 
sister. ' ' 

"The deuce! I think I am a sufficiently observant per- 
son, and I cannot see any change toward you in Brigitte." 

"Quite so; your sight is so good that you do not even 
see that Madame de Godollo is always about her, and that 
they are becoming inseparable." 

"Supposing, now, you were just the least bit jealous," 
suggested Thuillier archly. 

"Jealous? I do not know if that is the right word; but 
your sister, who has no more than an ordinary mind, and 
whose unwarranted authority over a man of your superior 
intellect — " 

"How can I help it?" said Thuillier, enjoying the com- 
pliment. "She is so devoted to me!" 

"Such weaknesses exist, I know," resumed la Peyrade; 
"but your sister, I say, does not reach up to your ankle. 
Well, then, when a man of my stamp has given her his 
friendship and counsel in the way I have done, he is not 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 235 

agreeably touched to see himself supplanted in her confi- 
dence by some haphazard woman, and that on account of a 
few rags of curtains and sticks of old furniture which she 
told her to buy." 

"With women, you know, household questions throw 
all others into the shade." 

''You ought also to see that Brigitte, who meddles in 
everything, undertakes to manage affairs of the heart too. 
And since you are so sharp-sighted, you ought to have ob- 
served, by this time, that in Brigitte's mind nothing is less 
certain than my marriage with Celeste. Yet my suit was 
officially authorized by you." 

'Yes," exclaimed Thuillier, with importance, "and 
I would like to see any one presuming to interfere be- 
tween us!" 

"Leaving your sister out of the question, I can tell you 
of some one who is doing all she can to interfere, and that 
is Mademoiselle Celeste. In spite of their difference in 
religious views, she remains very complacently attached to 
that little Phellion." 

"But why not tell Flavie to settle that'/" 

"As for Flavie, my dear fellow, no one knows her better 
than you do. She is a woman before she is a mother. I 
found it advisable to make a little love to her, and so, you 
understand, though she approves of the match, she does not 
exactly care to hasten it." 

"No matter," said Thuillier. "I will speak to Celeste 
myself. It shall not be said that we are being ruled by a 
little girl." 

"That is precisely what I do not want you to do!" cried 
la Peyrade. "I do not want you to intervene at all in this 
matter. Excepting in dealing with your sister, you have a 



236 BALZAC'S WORKS 

will of iron, and I do not wish it to be said that you pushed 
Celeste into my arms. On the contrary, I wish the child to 
dispose freely of her heart. Only, I think I am justified in 
asking that she decide finally between myself and Monsieur 
Felix, because I cannot endure this intolerable situation. 
Deferred until the day of your election as deputy, this mar- 
riage becomes a shadowy dream. I cannot allow the great 
event of my life to be made the sport of circumstances. 
And besides, the agreement we came to at first has the 
smell of a bargain about it that is distasteful to me. I must 
make a confession, which is forced upon me by these recent 
unpleasant happenings. Dutocq can tell you that, before 
you left your apartment in the Rue Saint-Dominique, within 
his hearing an heiress was proposed to me — quite seriously 
— who will be richer than Mademoiselle Colleville. I re- 
fused, because I am foolish enough to have lost my heart, 
and because an alliance with so honorable a family as yours 
seems highly desirable to me. But, after all, Brigitte must 
be made to understand that, if Celeste refuses me, I am not 
thrown on the street." 

"I willingly believe you," said Thuillier; "but to leave 
the whole decision to that child, if, as you say, she has a 
preference for Felix — " 

"That does not matter to me," interrupted the barrister. 
"I must be relieved from this untenable position at once. 
You will not get another page out of me until the question 
is settled one way or another." 

"What is the form of your ultimatum?" 

"I think that in a fortnight a girl should be able to 
make up her mind." 

"No doubt; but I do not like to leave the thing to 
Celeste's judgment, without appeal." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 237 

"I will take the risk of that. I shall be released from 
uncertainty, which is my principal aim, and, between our- 
selves, I am not so foolhardy as you think. No son of 
Phellion's — which is to say, obstinacy incarnated in stupid- 
ity — will have done with his philosophic doubts in a fort- 
night, and Celeste will certainly not accept him as a hus- 
band until he has given proof of conversion." 

"That may be so. But supposing she should temporize, 
supposing she should decline to choose between the alter- 
natives?" 

"That is your affair," answered the Provencal. "I do 
not know what you mean by 'family' in Paris. But I know 
that in our county of Avignon no such liberty allowed a 
little girl has ever been heard of. If you, your sister (as- 
suming she plays fair), and a father and a mother cannot 
make a child, whose dowry you are providing, do some- 
thing so simple and reasonable as to choose freely between 
two suitors — then good-day to you! You had best simply 
write on your door that Celeste is queen and empress!" 

"We have not quite come to that," said Thuillier, with 
an authoritative air. 

"As for you, old boy," concluded the lawyer, "our next 
meeting must be adjourned until after Celeste's decision. 
Then I will set to work, whatever she has determined, and 
in three days all will be finished." 

"At last I know what is on your mind. 1 will speak to 
Brigitte." 

Thuillier also spoke to Madame Colleville, intimating to 
her that she must apprise her daughter of the plans regard- 
ing her future. 

Celeste's inclination for Felix Phellion had never been 
formally encouraged or sanctioned. Plavie, in fact, had 



238 BALZAC'S WORKS 

once expressly forbidden her to give the young professor 
any hope. But being seconded by her godmother, Madame 
Thuillier — the only person in whom she confided — she 
quietly yielded to the gentle passion, without troubling 
about the obstacles that might some day bar her felicity. 
So that when she was ordered to choose between Theodose 
and Felix, the innocent child saw only one side of the alter- 
native, and imagined she would profit by an arrangement 
which was to leave her free to dispose of her hand as her 
heart might dictate. 

But Monsieur de la Peyrade had made no miscalculation 
when he reckoned that the young girl's religious intolerance 
on the one hand, and the young man's philosophic obduracy 
on the other, would prove an invincible impediment to their 
reconciliation. 

On the very day Flavie had been charged to communi- 
cate Thuillier's sovereign behest to Celeste, the Phellions 
came to spend the evening at Brigitte's, and a sharp en- 
counter took place between the two young people. Mad- 
emoiselle Colleville could have dispensed with her mother's 
injunction as to the great impropriety of mentioning as an 
argument, in her controversy with Felix, the terms of his 
probationary position; for Celeste had at once too much 
delicacy and too deep a religious sentiment to wish for her 
lover's conversion from any motive but real conviction. 
They therefore spent the entire evening in theological dis- 
cussion, and such are the Protean qualities of love that, in 
the black gown and square cap he wore on this occasion, he 
appeared to greater advantage than one would have ex- 
pected. But in this instance, Phellion junior was unfortu- 
nate to the last degree. Besides making no concessions, 
he argued in a frivolous and sarcastic tone, and at last sue- 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 239 

ceeded in rousing poor Celeste to such a state of anger that 
she forbade him ever to appear before her again. 

A more experienced lover than the young professor 
would have made it a point to see Celeste the next day); 
for in affairs of the heart people are never nearer to an 
understanding than at the moment they acknowledge the 
necessity of an eternal separation. But this is not a mathe- 
matical formula, and so Felix Phellion believed himself 
positively banished. During the fortnight granted the girl 
for reflection — in which she no more thought of la Peyrade 
than if he had had no interest in the matter — the unfortu 
nate youth never had the remotest thought of breaking the 
ban. Luckily for this silly lover, a good fairy was on the 
watch, and the day before Celeste was to make her choice 
known the following occurred. 

It was on Sunday, the day on which the Thuilliers still 
affected their regular receptions. 

To avoid being cheated by her servants, Madame Phel- 
lion was in the habit of dealing with her tradesmen in 
person. From time immemorial, in the Phellions' estab- 
lishment, Sunday was the day for stewed beef, and the 
wife of the great citizen, in the costume usually assumed 
by housewives when they go marketing, was prosaically 
returning from the butcher's, followed by her cook, who 
was carrying a fine cut of beef in her basket. She had 
already rung her door-bell twice, and a terrible storm was 
gathering over the head of the little servant who, by his 
delay, was placing his mistress in a far more terrible con- 
dition than that of Louis XIV., who was only almost kept 
waiting. In her feverish impatience, Madame Phellion had 
given the bell a third and tremendous pull. Imagine her 
confusion and her emotion, when, from a small brougham, 



240 BALZAC'S WORKS 

which clattered up to the door of her house, she saw a 
woman alight, and when in this early and inopportune 
visitor she recognized the elegant Countess Torna de 
G-odollo. Turning purple, the ill-fated Madame Phellion 
lost her head, and, confounding herself in excuses, was 
about to complicate the situation, already false enough, 
when, attracted by the incessant ringing of tlie bell, 
Phellion appeared from his study in dressing-gown and 
Greek skull-cap. After an eloquent speech, which went 
far toward compensating for the costume it was intended 
to excuse, the great citizen, with that serenity that never 
failed him, gallantly offered his arm to the stranger, and, 
after seating her in the drawing-room, began — "May one 
ask Madame, without being indiscreet, what it is that brings 
us the unexpected pleasure of her visit?" 

"I desire," answered the Hungarian, "to talk with Ma- 
dame Phellion about something which concerns her deeply. 
I never have an opportunity to see her alone, and therefore, 
though she scarcely knows me, 1 have taken the liberty of 
coming here." 

"On the contrary, Madame, this is a signal honor to our 
humble abode. But where can Madame Phellion be?" 
added the worthy man impatiently, as he went toward 
the door. 

"No, I beg of you," said the Countess, "do not disturb 
her. My call was untimely when she was busy with house- 
hold duties. Brigitte is bringing me up very well, and I 
know that a housekeeper's cares must be respected. In any 
case, I can hardly complain, since I have the advantage of 
your company, which 1 had not reckoned upon." 

Before Phellion had answered this civil phrase, Madame 
Phellion appeared. A ribboned cap had taken the place of 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 241 

the marketing hat, and an enormous shawl concealed the 
other insufficiencies of her morning toilet. Upon his wife's 
entrance, the great citizen tried to retire discreetly. 

"Monsieur Phellion," said the Countess, "you will not 
be unwelcome in the conversation with Madame. Quite the 
contrary, your excellent judgment cannot but be useful in 
throwing light upon a question in which you are no less 
interested than your amiable wife. I mean your son's 
marriage. ' ' 

"My son's marriage?" exclaimed Madame Phellion with 
an expression of surprise. "But I was not aware that any- 
thing of the sort was at this moment being considered." 

"A marriage between Monsieur Felix and Celeste," the 
Countess went on, "is, I believe, one of your desires — -if not 
a definite plan." 

"We have taken no steps whatever, Madame," said 
Phellion, "in that direction." 

"I know well enough, however," continued the Hun- 
garian, "in spite of the bad management to which the affair 
has been subjected, that the young people love each other, 
and that they will be deserving of pity if they are not 
united. It is to ward off this disaster that I have come 
here this morning." 

"Madame," said Phellion, "we cannot but be profoundly 
touched by the interest you are kind enough to express for 
our son's happiness, but really, this interest — " 

"Is so incomprehensible," quickly interrupted the Coun- 
tess, "that it puts you rather on your guard ?" 

"Indeed, no, Madame!" said Phellion with a respectful 
and deprecating bow. 

"Dear me," continued the lady, "the explanation is very 
simple. I have made a study of Celeste, and I have found 

(K)— Vol. 16 



2i2 BALZAC'S WORKS 

that sweet, innocent child to possess such good moral quali- 
ties that I should be deeply mortified to see her sacrificed.'' 

"No doubt," said Madame Phellion, "Celeste is an angel 
of goodness." 

"As for Monsieur Felix, I venture to be interested in 
him, first because he is a worthy son of the most virtuous 
of father's — " 

"You are too kind, Madame!" said Phellion, bowing as 
before. 

"But I also like him for that shyness of true love which 
speaks from all his actions and all his words. We women 
find an inexpressible charm in seeing a passion under an as- 
pect which threatens neither disappointment nor deception." 

"My son, indeed, is not remarkably distinguished," said 
Madame Phellion with scarcely jjerceptible tartness. "He is 
not a young man of fashion." 

"But he has the highest qualities," replied the Countess. 
"He has merit unconscious of itself, and that is the surest 
token of intellectual superiority. But another reason which 
induces me to champion the cause of these young people is 
that I have no fancy whatever for Monsieur de la Peyrade, 
who is false and greedy for wealth. This man is trying to 
build his own fortune on the ruins of their hopes." 

"No doubt," said Phellion, "Monsieur de la Peyrade 
has sombre depths of character where the light may hardly 
penetrate." 

"And as I have had the misfortune of having a husband 
of just such a character, the mere thought of the torments to 
which Celeste would be condemned by such a connection 
inspired me with the charitable impulse which now, per 
haps, no longer surprises you." 

'There was no necessity, ' said Phellion, "for the dis- 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 243 

cursive explanations with which }^ou have been justifying 
your conduct; but as to the errors by which we may have 
counteracted your generous efforts, I admit that to save us 
from repeating them it would be a kindness to point them 
out to us." 

"How long is it," asked the Countess, "since anyone 
of your family has been in the Thuilliers' house." 

"If my memory serves me right," answered Phellion, 
"we were there on the Sunday following the housewarming 
dinner." 

"That is to say a full fortnight of continued absence," 
commented the Hungarian lady. "Do you believe that in 
a fortnight nothing happens?" 

"Yes, much may happen, since thre*e glorious days were 
sufficient in 1830 to overturn a perjured dynasty, and found 
the present order of government." 

"You see!" said the Countess, "and on that particular 
evening, did nothing pass between Celeste and your son." 

"Yes," answered Phellion, "a very unpleasant debate 
on the subject of Felix" s religious views, for it must be con- 
fessed that little Celeste, so charming in every other way, 
is something of a fanatic on the chapter of religion." 

"I grant that; but you know by what mother she has 
been brought up. She has not been shown the real face 
of sincere piety, but its grimace. The repentant Magda- 
lens of Madame Colleville's type always pretend an incli- 
nation for the desert in the company of a death's head. 
They like to believe that their salvation cannot be bought 
at a cheaper price. After all, what did Celeste ask Mon- 
sieur Felix to do? To read the 'Imitation of Christ'?" 

"He has read it, Madame," answered Phellion. "He 
found it to be a very well written book, but his convic 



244 BALZAC'S WORKS 

tions, unfortunately, have not been in the least changed 
by it." 

"And do you think it clever of him not to have made 
some slight concessions to his lady-love?" 

"My son has never received lessons in cleverness from 
me; truthfulness and integrity, those are the principles 
I have tried to teach him/ 

"It seems to me, sir, that there is no lack of truthfulness 
in the avoidance of offending a prejudiced mind. But let 
us take for granted that Monsieur Felix owed it to himself 
to be the iron barrier against which all of Celeste's entrea- 
ties have broken. Was that a reason, after a scene which 
was not the first of its kind, and which bore the character 
of a rupture, to abstain from visiting the Thuilliers' neutral 
territory, and to keep in his tent for a whole fortnight?" 

"I must admit," said Madame Phellion, "that since the 
da}^ when Celeste seemed to signify to him that all was over 
between them, my son has behaved in a manner to alarm 
both Monsieur Phellion and myself." 

"What has happened?" asked the Countess, with evident 
concern. 

"The evening of the quarrel," said Phellion, "my son 
on returning here shed burning tears on his mother's breast, 
telling us that he thought his happiness was gone for life." 

"That," observed Madame de Grodollo, "is natural 
enough; lovers always see the worst side of things." 

"No doubt," said Madame Phellion; "but since that 
time Felix has not made the most distant allusion to his 
misfortune, and the next day he threw himself into his work 
with a sort of frenzy. Does that seem natural too?" 

'That also is open to exolanation: study is said to be 
a great consoler." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 245 

"Very true," said Phellion; "but in Felix's conduct 
there is something so extravagant and so abstracted, that 
you would hardly believe it. When you speak to the 
young man, he does not seem to hear you. He sits down 
to the table, and forgets to eat, or takes his food in the 
dreamy manner which medical science looks upon as very 
bad for the operations of digestion. He has to be reminded 
of his regular tasks and occupations, when, normally, he is 
so punctilious. And the other day, while he was at the ob- 
servatory, where he now spends all his evenings (returning 
at hours unduly late), I took it upon myself to go into his 
room, and to look over his papers. I was frightened at 
finding the copybook full of algebraic calculations which 
seemed to surpass the powers of the human mind." 

"Perhaps," suggested the Countess, "he is on the road 
to the solution of some great problem." 

"Or on the road to madness," said Madame Phellion, 
sighing, and lowering her voice. 

"That is very unlikely," said Madame de Godollo. 
" With such a calm temperament and such good sense one 
is not exposed to that. I know of something more danger- 
ous which threatens him to-morrow, it a decisive step is not 
taken before then: Celeste may be lost to him altogether!" 

"How so?" asked both the spouses in the same breath. 

"You may not be aware," began the Countess, "that 
special pledges have been made by Thuillier and his sister 
on the subject of a match between Celeste and Monsieur 
de la Peyrade." 

"We had some suspicion of it, at least," answered 
Madame Phellion. 

"But the fulfilment of these pledges was dated far in ad- 
vance, and strictly conditioned. Monsieur de la Peyrade, 



246 BALZAC'S WORKS 

after securing the purchase of the house in the Madeleine, 
was to obtain the Cross of the Legion of Honor for Monsieur 
Thuillier, write a political pamphlet for him, and lead him 
to a seat in the Chamber. It was like a romance of chiv- 
alry, in which the hero, before winning the hand of the 
princess, was sentenced to exterminate a dragon. It would 
take too long, and would be of no immediate purpose, to 
detail Monsieur de la Peyrade's procedure. But the chief 
thing for you to know is, that, thanks to his machinations, 
Celeste has been compelled to choose between himself and 
Monsieur Felix. The poor child was given a fortnight to 
reflect and make up her mind. To-morrow the fatal term 
expires. But, thanks to the unfavorable disposition your 
son's conduct has produced in her, there is a serious dan- 
ger of her true sentiments being stifled by the voice of her 
vexation." 

"But what is to be done, Madame?" asked Phellion. 

" Fight! Come this evening in a body to the Thuillier's, 
and make Monsieur Felix come with you. Sermonize him 
into making his philosophic opinions a little more pliable. 
Now, Henri IV. said that Paris was worth a Mass. At any 
rate, let him avoid questions of that kind. Let him find 
accents in his heart to move the woman who loves him. 
That will be a great stride toward being thought in the 
right by her. I shall be there, and shall do all in my power 
to help him, and perhaps, under the inspiration of the mo 
ment, I may invent some means of making my support effi- 
cacious. One thing is certain — that to-night we must fight 
a great battle, and if we do not, all of us, valiantly do our 
duty, the victory may fall to la Peyrade." 

"My son is not here," answered Phellion, "which I 
regret, as perhaps your kindness and your parting words 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 247 

might have stirred him from his torpor. However, I shall 
show him the situation in its full gravity, and he will cer- 
tainly accompany us to our. friends, the Thuilliers, this 
evening." 

"I need hardly say," added the Countess rising, "that 
you must carefully eschew anything to suggest the idea of 
collusion. We must have no communications, and unless 
the reconciliation comes about naturally, we had best not 
speak to one another." 

"You may count, Madame, upon my discretion," an- 
swered Phellion, "and I ask you at the same time to accept 
the assurance of — " 

"Your most distinguished consideration!" interrupted 
the Countess, laughing. 

"No, Madame, 1 ' heartily answered Phellion, "I have 
reserved that figure of speech for ending letters with. But 
I would like you to believe in my warm and unalterable 
gratitude. ' ' 

"We will talk about that after we are out of danger," 
said Madame de Godollo, as she went to the door, "and 
if Madame, the most loving and virtuous of mothers and 
wives, will give me a little place in her friendship, I shall 
be more than repaid for my trouble." 

Madame Phellion began an immeasurable compliment. 
The Countess had already gone some distance in her car- 
riage, when Phellion was still following her with the most 
obsequious salutations. 

In the measure that the element of the Latin Quarter 
diminished its visits to Brigitte's new house, a more vital 
stream of Paris life filtered in. For among his colleagues 
of the municipal council and the higher clerks of the pre- 
fecture, Thuillier had enlisted some important recruits. 



248 BALZAC'S WORKS 

The mayor and his deputies in the district on whom the 
councillor had called, upon settling in the district, had 
hastened to return his civility, and also a few officers of 
the First Legion. The house itself had contributed its con- 
tingent, and some of the new tenants aided in the reorgani- 
zation of the Sunday evening parties by their presence. 
Among them must be mentioned Rabourdin, formerly the 
chief of Thuillier's division in the Finance Department. 
Having lost his wife, whose social gatherings had once 
rivalled Madame Colleville's, Rabourdin was now occupy- 
ing bachelor quarters on the third floor over the apartment 
leased to Cardot, the honorary notary. As a consequence of 
being passed over through favoritism, he had voluntarily 
resigned from the public service. At the time he met Thuil- 
lier again, he was a director of one of those numerous rail- 
ways under projection; whose completion suffered constant 
postponement through parliamentary delays and partisan 
ship. Let us observe, in passing, that meeting with this 
clever administrator, who had become an important figure 
in the financial world, afforded the worthy and honest Phel- 
lion another occasion to show his splendid character. At 
the time of Rabourdin 's retirement, to which he had felt 
forced, of all the clerks in the office Phellion had been the 
only one to take his side. Rabourdin, now in a position to 
dispose of a number of places, when he found his faithful 
knight again, at once offered him an easy and lucrative 
post. 

"Sir," Phellion replied, "your kindness touches and 
honors me, but my sincerity owes you a confession which I 
beg you not to take in bad part. I do not believe in iron 
roads or railways, as the English call them." 

"An opinion, as good as any other," said Rabourdin 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 249 

smiling, "but in the meantime, we are paying our clerks 
very well, and I would be glad to employ you in that ca- 
pacity. I know by experience that you are a man upon 
whom reliance can be placed." 

"Sir," answered the great citizen again, "I did my duty 
then and nothing more. As for your generous offer, I feel 
unable to accept it; content with my humble lot, I experi- 
ence neither the desire nor the need to embark on a new 
career." 

Most of the new guests invited by Thuillier were igno- 
rant of his sister's supremacy in the household. On arriv- 
ing, therefore, they requested Thuillier to present them to 
Madame, and Thuillier could not of course tell them that 
his wife was a figurehead groaning under the iron hand of 
a Richelieu from whom sprung all authority. It was only 
after their first homage rendered to the wife of the sov- 
ereign, that the new-comers were taken to Brigitte, who, 
through anger at this dethronement from power, received 
them so rudely that they were but little encouraged to go 
out of their way to show her civility. Conscious of this 
species of decline, Queen Elizabeth said to herself, with that 
profound instinct of domination which was her ruling pas- 
sion — "If I do not take care, I shall soon count for nothing 
here." And dwelling upon this idea, she at last came to 
think that in the event of la Peyrade, as Celeste's husband, 
taking a place in the household, the situation, which already 
was beginning to displease and disquiet her, could not but 
complicate itself. Thenceforth, as if by a sudden intuition, 
Felix Phellion, a good young man, too much absorbed in 
his mathematics ever to become a formidable rival to her 
sovereignty, appeared to her a far more suitable match than 
the enterprising barrister, and she was therefore the first 



250 BALZAC'S WORKS 

to be disturbed at the absence of their son, when she saw 
the Phelliou couple arrive without him. 

As for Madame de Godollo, who in spite of her very un- 
usual voice had refused to sing, when she saw what little 
attention had been paid to her advice, requested Madame 
Phellion to be good enough to accompany her, and between 
two verses of a fashionable ballad asked her — "Well, and 
what about your son ?" 

"He is coming," answered Madame Phellion, "his father 
lectured him roundly, but to-night there is a conjunction of 
some planets -I do not know which. It is a great occasion 
at the observatory, and he was obliged to go—-" 

"How can one be so inconceivably ill advised?" said 
the Countess. "There was not enough theology in this 
affair so astronomy had to be dragged in." And irritation 
imparting more vigor to her performance, she finished the 
ballad among what the English call " thunders of ap- 
plause." 

La Peyrade, who feared her excessively, was not one of 
the last, after she had gone back to her place, to come up 
and express his admiration; but she received his compli- 
ments with a coolness that bordered upon incivility, and 
this gave a yet keener edge to their enmity. He then went 
to console himself with Madame Colleville. Flavie had too 
many pretensions to beauty left not to hate a woman quali- 
fied to capture so many suffrages. 

"Do you too think that woman sings well?" Madame 
Colleville disdainfully asked the lawyer. 

"I have been telling her so, at least," answered la Pey- 
rade, "since there is no salvation without her, when it 
comes to standing well in Brigitte's favor. But look at 
your little Celeste; she never takes her eyes off the door, 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 251 

and whenever a tray is brought in, although it is too late 
for another visitor, her face shows evident signs of disap- 
pointment." 

It may be noted that since the reign of Madame de Gro- 
dollo trays were handed about in the drawing-room on re- 
ception days — and that without stint — loaded with ices and 
little cakes and syrups, bought at Tanrade's, the best place. 

"Oh, leave me alone!" said Flavie. "I know very well 
what that little idiot is thinking about, and your marriage 
is all the more certain." 

"But am I doing it for myself?" said la Peyrade. "Is 
it not a necessity I am submitting to for the sake of the 
future prosperity of us all? Tears in your eyes? Come, 
come! How unreasonable! The devil! who wants the ends 
wants the means, as that old prig of a Phellion says!" And 
leaving her, he drew near to the group formed by Celeste, 
Madame Thuillier, Madame de Godollo, Colleville and Phel- 
lion. Madame Colleville followed him, and lashed to un- 
motherly ferocity by the sentiment of jealousy, she said — 
"Celeste, why do you not sing ? Several of these gentlemen 
wish to hear you." 

"Oh, mamma," said Celeste, "how can I sing after Ma- 
dame, with my poor shred of a voice ? Besides, you know 
I have a slight cold." 

"Which means that you are capricious and disagreeable, 
as usual. People sing as they can, and every voice has its 
good qualities." 

"My dear friend," said Colleville, who, having just lost 
twenty francs at one of the card tables, was in sufficiently 
bad humor to venture opposition to his wife, "people sing 
as they can — that is a Philistine precept. You sing with 
your voice if you have one, but you never sing after an 



252 BALZAC'S WORKS 

operatic voice, like the Countess's, has been heard. For 
my part, I am quite willing to excuse Celeste from cooing 
one of her little languid airs." 

"It is hardly worth while," said Flavie, leaving the 
group, "to pay such expensive masters for nothing!" 

"So," said Colleville to Phellion, resuming the conver- 
sation which Madame Colleville's invasion had interrupted, 
"Felix has ceased to inhabit the earth, and spends his time 
in the stars?" 

"My dear old friend," said Phellion, "I am like yourself 
much provoked with my son, at seeing him thus neglect the 
oldest friends of his family, and although the contemplation 
of those great luminous bodies, suspended in space by the 
Creator's hand, in my opinion presents matters of greater 
interest than your brain seems to conceive, I think that if 
Felix breaks his promise to come here this evening he will 
be guilty of a serious breach of politeness. I shall not spare 
him, I promise you that." 

"Science," observed la Peyrade, "is a fine thing, but, 
unfortunately, it makes bears and maniacs of people." 

"To say nothing of the fact," said Celeste, "that it does 
away with all religious ideas." 

"There, my child, you are wrong," remarked the 
Countess. "Pascal, who himself was an example of the 
falseness of your point of view, said, if I am not mistaken, 
that a little science takes us away from religion, bat a great 
deal takes us back to it." 

"However, Madame," said Celeste, "everybody agrees 
that Monsieur Felix is very learned. When he was giving 
my brother lessons there was nothing, Fran§ois used to say, 
so clear or intelligible as his explanations, and you see that 
he is none the more religious for that." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 253 

"I tell you, my dear, that Monsieur Felix is not irre- 
ligious, and that with a little kindness and patience nothing 
would be easier than to bring him back to the fold." 

"Bring a man of science back to the fold! That seems 
difficult to me," said la Peyrade. "Those gentlemen put 
their studies above everything else. Tell a geometrician, for 
instance, or a geologist, that the Church imperatively orders 
'the keeping of the Sabbath by the cessation of all kinds of 
work, and they will only shrug their shoulders, although 
(rod Almighty did not disdain to rest." 

"It is quite true," agreed Celeste innocently, "that in 
not coming this evening Monsieur Felix is not only erring 
against the rules of politeness, but he is committing a sin." 

"But tell me, my dear young lady," went on Madame 
de Godollo, "do you think that to see us assembled here for 
the purpose of singing ballads, eating ices, and slandering 
one another, as too often happens in drawing-rooms, is 
more pleasing to God than to see a student in his ob- 
servatory, occupied in examining the glorious secrets of 
creation ?" 

"There is a time for everything," answered Celeste; 
"and, as Monsieur de la Peyrade said, 'God Himself did 
not disdain to rest.' 

"But, my dear," said Madame de Godollo, "God had 
time to rest; He is eternal." 

"That," said la Peyrade, "is one of the prettiest and 
wittiest specimens of impiety I have ever heard, and such 
reasons pass for current coin among worldlings. The com- 
mandments of the Lord are interpreted arbitrarily, even 
when they are most positive and explicit; they take what 
they want and they leave what they want, and they draw 
their distinctions. FVee-thinkers submit everything to their 



254 BALZAC'S WORKS 

own omniscience, and we know that from free thought to a 
free life it is not a long step." 

"However, this morning," the Countess went on, "I had 
the honor of being received by Father Anselme. Not only 
is this good man a model of all the Christian virtues, but he 
has the reputation of being a profound mathematician." 

"I did not say that the two qualifications were irrecon- 
cilable in the same individual." 

"But you did say that a good Christian could attend to 
no sort of work upon a Sunday, so that Father Anselme 
must be a sad miscreant. As I entered his room I found 
him before a large blackboard, chalk in hand, and engaged 
in the solution of a difficult problem. The blackboard was 
three-quarters covered with algebraic signs, and, I may 
add, that he did not seem to think he was exciting scandal, 
since a person whom I am not at liberty to name, but who 
has given great promise in the field of science, was sharing 
in this profane study." 

"Then you know several men of learning?" asked 
Celeste; "for this one and Monsieur Phellion already 
make two." 

"You are a curious little body," said the Countess; 
"but you will not make me tell what I do not want to, as 
your mind would at once go off at a gallop. 

The gallop had already begun, and every word of the 
Countess appeared to increase the girl's perturbation. 

"I should not be in the least surprised," said la Peyrade 
ironically, "if Father Anselme's assistant was Monsieur 
Felix Phellion himself. Voltaire kept on good terms with 
the Jesuits who had brought him up, but he did not talk 
religion with them." 

'Well, my young doctor ot science talks freely with his 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 255 

senior, and lays his doubts before him, and it was thus that 
their scientific friendship began." 

"And does Father Anselme, " asked Celeste, "hope to 
convert this young man?" 

"He is sure of doing so. The young man, apart from 
his deficient religious education, has been brought up in 
the best principles, and, besides that, knows that his return 
to the Church would make a charming young girl happy, 
who loves him and whom he loves. Now, my dear child, 
I am going to say no more, and you may believe what 
you please." 

"Oh, godmother!" exclaimed Celeste, giving way to her 
feelings, "what if it were himself!" And she threw her- 
self, in tears, into Madame Thuillier's arms. 

At this moment, the footman opened the door of the 
drawing-room, and by a singular coincidence announced 
Monsieur Felix Phellion. The schoolmaster arrived in a 
state of violent perspiration, his necktie in disorder; he 
was quite out of breath. 

"A nice hour," scolded Phellion, "to pay a visit!" 

"Father," Felix excused himself as he stepped in the 
direction where Madame Thuillier and Celeste were' sitting, 
"I could not leave until the phenomenon was over; I found 
no cab, and ran all the way." 

After hearing some reproaches about the infrequency of 
his visits, and being forgiven by the gracious amnesty, 
"Better late than never, " he turned again to his pole star, 
and was not a little surprised by Madame de Godollo's re- 
mark: "Monsieur, you will forgive a slight indiscretion 
which I was drawn into in the heat of conversation regard- 
ing yourself. I told these ladies, in spite of your request 
to the contrary, where I met you this morning." 



256 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"Or where I had the honor of meeting you," said Felix, 
"without seeing you." 

A hardly perceptible smile flitted on la Peyrade's lips. 

"You saw enough of me to speak to me, and entreat me 
to observe entire secrecy. However, I have not compro- 
mised you beyond the truth: I said that you sometimes 
saw Father Anselme, and your connection with him has 
hitherto been restricted to scientific research, but that you 
defend your doubts against him just as you do against 
Celeste." 

"Father Anselme?" asked Felix blankly. 

"Yes, of course," said la Peyrade; "the great mathema- 
tician who intends to convert you. Mademoiselle Celeste 
wept for joy over the news. 

Felix looked utterly bewildered. Madame de Godollo 
spoke to him with her eyes in a language that a poodle 
dog would have understood. 

"I wish," added young Phellion, "I had anything so 
agreeable to tell Mademoiselle Celeste; but I think, Ma- 
dame, you must be mistaken." 

"Listen, sir. I will speak very plainly, and if your 
false shame makes you conceal a step about which there is 
nothing blameworthy, since it rejoices those who love you, 
then you may disavow my statement." 

Madame Thuillier and Celeste were a sight in them- 
selves; never were doubt and expectation more forcibly 
expressed on human faces. 

Weighing each one of her words, the Countess said: "I 
told these ladies, because I knew to what degree they were 
concerned in your welfare, and because you were accused of 
wickedly disobeying the Lord's commandment not to work 
on Sundays — I told them I had met you this morning at a 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 257 

house in the Rue des Postes, at Father Anselme's, a man of 
learning like yourself, and with whom you were engaged 
in the solution of a mathematical problem. I told them 
that your scientific relationship with this good and enlight- 
ened man had led to other discussions between you, that 
you had mentioned your religious doubts to him, and that 
he did not despair of overcoming them. In confirming this, 
there is nothing to humiliate your pride. You were simply 
preparing a surprise for Celeste, and I was clumsy enough 
to prematurely ventilate your secret. But only tell her that 
I spoke the truth, and you will bestow the happiness on her 
she has been waiting for so long. ' ' 

"Come, sir," said la Peyrade, "there can be nothing 
derogatory in looking for light. You, such an upright man, 
and such an enemy of falsehood, cannot deny what Madame 
states with such positiveness. " 

"Mademoiselle Celeste," said Felix after a moment's 
hesitation, "will you allow me to "speak a few words to you 
in private?" 

At an approving sign from Madame Thuillier, Celeste 
got up. Felix took her by the hand, and drew her into 
the recess of a window near by. 

"Celeste, I beseech you to wait a little longer. Look," 
he added, pointing to a constellation in the sky, "beyond 
those visible stars another life awaits us all. As for the 
story about Father Anselme, I cannot acknowledge it, be- 
cause it is not true. It is a kind invention. But be patient, 
and you will hear of things — " 

Here Celeste left him, and he remained gazing at the 
heavens. 

"He is mad!" said the young girl, in accents of despair, 
when she went back to her place at Madame Thuillier's side. 



258 BALZAC'S WORKS 

And Felix confirmed this diagnosis by rushing out of 
the room without noticing how excitedly his father and 
mother followed him. While the company was lost in 
amazement over this sudden exit, la Peyrade respectfully 
addressed Madame de Grodollo: "You must admit, Ma- 
dame, that it is very difficult to pull a man out of the 
water who insists on drowning — " 

"I had not conceived the possibility of such utter 
stupidity; it was almost too absurd to be true. I now go 
over to the enemy, and will render to the enemy, at the 
date of his own choosing, a full and free explanation." 

The next day Theodose was afflicted with complex curi- 
osity. How would Celeste decide between the alternatives 
offered ? What had this Countess de Godollo to tell him, 
and what did she want of him ? The first of these ques- 
tions seemed entitled to precedence; yet, nevertheless, la 
Peyrade felt instinctively drawn toward the investigation 
of the second. But when he decided to go to the Countess 
first, he understood that for the interview to which she had 
summoned him he must be completely armed. 

Rain had fallen in the morning, and the great calculator 
of destinies did not need to be told that a splash staining 
the varnish on a boot may bring a man discomfiture. He 
sent the porter for a cab, and about three in the afternoon 
started from the Rue Saint-Dominique-d'Enfer for the fash- 
ionable latitudes of the Madeleine district. It may well be 
imagined that he had bestowed much care upon his dress, 
which had to be balanced between informal morning clothes 
and the elaborate after-dinner costume. Professionally 
wedded to the white cravat, which he rarely dispensed 
with, and not venturing to present himself otherwise than 
in a tail coat, he felt himself sliding toward one of the very 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 259 

extremes which he desired to avoid. But by buttoning his 
tail coat, and substituting for his straw-colored gloves a 
darker pair, he called a truce to ceremony, and at the same 
time escaped the provincial appearance of evening dress 
worn before sunset. Our wily diplomat was careful not to 
be taken as far as the door of the house. He would not 
have liked to be seen from the first floor getting out of a 
hired vehicle; and from the second, he would have feared 
himself suspected of a visit to the floor below, which would 
have led to endless comments. He therefore took the pre- 
caution of stopping at the corner of the Rue Royale, whence 
he cautiously tip-toed to his destination on the pavement, 
now nearly dry. Arrived at the house, he was luckily not 
seen by the porter and his wife, who were both absent, so 
that he was able to reach the door of the sanctuary unob- 
served. A gentle pull at a tasselled silk bell rope made 
a bell ring inside the apartment. A few seconds elapsed, 
when a more vigorous pull at another, but smaller, bell 
announced the fact to him that the maid was too slow in 
going to the door, in her mistress's opinion. Another mo- 
ment, and it was opened by a maidservant of mature age, 
and too substantial to wear the costume of the chambermaid 
in the play. 

The lawyer gave his name, and was requested to wait in 
a dining-room furnished with chaste luxury. Almost im- 
mediately, the servant came back for him, and, announcing 
his name, ushered him into the daintiest and prettiest of 
drawing-rooms. 

The divinity of the place was seated before a table cov- 
ered with a cloth of Venetian design, where gold threads 
glittered among the bright colors of finely embroidered fig- 
ures. As the barrister entered, she bowed without rising, 



260 BALZAC'S WORKS 

and as the servant gave him a chair, said: "Will you allow 
me to finish an important letter, Monsieur?" 

La Peyrade bowed, in token of assent. The lovely for- 
eigner then took from a desk inlaid with tortoise-shell a 
sheet of sky-blue English note paper, which she put into 
an envelope, and after penning the address rang a bell. 
The maid answered at once, and lighted a delicately em- 
bossed spirit lamp, one of the desk utensils. Over the 
lamp hung a sort of enamelled crucible containing a wafer 
of perfumed sealing wax. As soon as the heat had liquefied 
the wax, the maid poured it upon the envelope, while she 
handed her mistress an armorial seal. The lady stamped 
the wax with her fair hands, and said — ''Have this taken 
to its address without delay." 

The servant inadvertently let the note drop, and as he 
picked it up, la Peyrade caught a glimpse of the address, 
which read, To His Excellency, the Minister of Foreign 
Affairs, with the word Private in the upper left-hand corner. 

"I beg your pardon!" said the Countess as she took the 
letter from the barrister's hand, who had been wise enough 
to give it back to its mistress, in order to show his civility. 
"Be good enough not to lose it," she added in a harsh tone 
to the awkward maidservant, whom dismissing, the beau- 
tiful Hungarian left the chair before the writing table, and 
went over to take a seat on a pearl-gray satin sofa. 

During these little manipulations, la Peyrade had amused 
himself by talcing an inventory of the surrounding splen- 
dors. Paintings by great masters stood out from dull, dark 
hangings, enlivened by silk fringes and galloon. On a 
bracket of gilded wood stood an enormous Japanese vase. 
In front of the windows were two flower stands, in each of 
which a red lily, with its hooked petals, towered over white 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 261 

and red camellias and dwarfish Chinese magnolia blossoms, 
creamy white with poppy-colored border. In a nook hung 
a panoply of arms of the strangest and richest kind, char- 
acterizing the nationality of the mistress, who bore a touch 
of the hussar. Some bronzes and statuettes of exquisite 
taste, and chairs (which rolled smoothly on a Turkish carpet) 
showing a very anarchy of designs and materials, completed 
the furniture of this room, which the barrister had had oc- 
casion to visit with Thuillier before it was ever inhabited. 
He thought it transfigured beyond the point of recognition. 
With a little more knowledge of the world, the barrister 
would not have been surprised at the pains the Countess 
had lavished upon the decoration of this retreat. A wo- 
man's ilra wing-room is her kingdom. And it is an absolute 
monarchy, for it is there that she reigns and governs in the 
full sense of the word; it is there that she often gives battle, 
and nearly always she issues forth victorious. Has she not, 
indeed, selected all the ornaments of her drawing-room, and 
grouped all the colors, and has she not lighted it according 
to her judgment? If she is an intelligent stage manager, 
she will appear to the best advantage amid scenery arranged 
by her own hands, and every one of her charms will be 
thrown into rare relief. Acknowledge that you do not 
know all the perfections of a woman, before you have seen 
her in the prismatic atmosphere of her drawing-room; but 
beware, also, of judging and appraising her, if you have 
seen her there only! The Countess was coquettish ly loung- 
ing in a corner of the sofa; Inn' head Listlessly resting on an 
arm whose white outline the eye could have followed almost 
to the elbow, under the wide drooping sleeve of a black- velvet 
dressing-gown. Her fairy foot nestling in a tiny Kussian- 
leather slipper, which rested on a cushion of orange satin 



262 BALZAC'S WORKS 

stamped with flowers, the lovely Hungarian looked like 
a portrait by Lawrence or Winterhalter, with the added 
charm of an artless pose. 

"Monsieur," said she, smiling, and with a slight foreign 
accent that lent her speech stronger attraction, "I can only 
be pleased at being called an enemy by a man of your 
cleverness and penetration. 1 ' 

"But, Madame," answered la Peyrade with mingled as- 
tonishment and distrust in his eyes, "all appearances, you 
will agree, were eloquent on my behalf. A rival crosses my 
path as I am moving toward a marriage offering itself to 
me as suitable in every respect. This rival is kind enough 
to behave with miraculous stupidity, and to be in no wise 
formidable, and, lo and behold, the most charming and 
unexpected ally comes to aid him at his most vulnerable 
spot — " 

"You must allow," laughed the Countess, "that he is 
a brilliant young gentleman, and that he nobly seconded 
my efforts!" 

"I presume that you may have foreseen his stupidity, 
and thus the support you honored him with was all the 
more mortifying to me." 

"Would it be such a very great misfortune," said the 
foreigner, with pretty affectation, "if you were dispensed 
from marrying Mademoiselle Celeste ? Are you really so 
deeply infatuated with that little schoolgirl?" 

In this one word, and especially in its intonation, there 
lay more than contempt, for there was expressed hatred. 
The tone of voice could not escape such an observer as 
la Peyrade. As, however, he was not the man to jump at 
a mere remark — "Madame," said he, "the common phrase 
'To settle a thing' sums up a situation in which after long 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 263 

strife and vanished illusions a man compromises, as best 
be may, with the future. Now, when this 'settlement' ap- 
pears in the shape of a young girl with more virtue, to be 
sure, than beauty, but bringing her husband the fortune in- 
dispensable to conjugal happiness and welfare, why should 
not the heart be grateful, and accept the prospect of the 
peaceful happiness proffered?" 

"It has always been my belief," replied the Countess, 
"that a man's intelligence is the measure of his ambition, 
and I supposed that a man shrewd enough to begin as the 
advocate of the poor entertained less humble and less 
idyllic aspirations." 

"Ah, you see the iron hand of necessity compels us to 
strange forms of abnegation; before the question of daily 
bread every other yields and gives way. Was not Apollo 
obliged to become Admetus's shepherd for a living?" 

"But Admetus's flock," objected Madame de Godollo, 
"was at least a royal one. Certainly, Apollo would not 
have consented to act as shepherd for a — member of the 
middle class." 

The pause before her last words seemed to imply the 
idea of a proper name, and la Peyrade understood that from 
pure clemency Thuillicr had been excused from figuring in 
an argument which had been limited to the species instead 
of including the individual. 

"I believe," said la Peyrade, "there is as much truth 
as subtlety in your distinction, but in this case it does not 
depend upon Apollo." 

"I do not like people who overrate themselves," said 
the Countess curtly, "but I like people even less who sell 
their wares under current value; on the part of such I 
always fear some deep and complicated piece of rascality. 



B#4 BALZAC'S WORKS 

You are well aware of your own merits, Monsieur, and your 
hypocritical humility is detestable; it proves that my well- 
meant overtures have not even led to the beginnings of 
mutual confidence." 

"I assure you that, up to now, I have had no reason 
to believe in any alarming superiority of mine." 

"Indeed," said the Hungarian, "the modesty of the man 
is evident who is ready to take refuge behind the pitiful fate 
I am trying to rescue him from." 

"No less evident, perhaps," cleverly rejoined la Pey- 
rade, "than the reality of the benevolence which, to save 
me, has been severely chastising me." 

The lady cast a reproachful look at her interlocutor. Her 
lingers playing with one of the ribbons on her gown, she 
lowered her eyes, and breathed a sigh so light and imper- 
ceptible that it might have passed for a regular incident 
of her respiration. 

"You are revengeful," she said, "and judge all people 
alike. After all," she added, as if upon reflection, "you 
are perhaps right in reminding me that I went by a round- 
about way to interfere rather absurdly in matters that are 
no business of mine. Pursue this glorious marriage which 
you find so suitable in every respect, and let me hope that 
you will never have cause to repent of a victory which 
I will no longer seek to postpone." 

The Provencal had not been spoiled by the ladies. The 
sort of poverty with which he had for a long time struggled 
does not throw gallant adventures in a man's way, and since 
shaking off its bony embrace and entirely giving himsell 
over to the laborious task of building up his prospects, 
excepting the comedy with Madame Colleville, he had paid 
little heed to the sentimental wants of his heart. The 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 265 

perplexity of this novice in that department may therefore 
readily be conceived when he found himself wavering be- 
tween the fear of allowing a delightful opportunity to 
escape and of discovering a snake under the flowers which 
seemed put into his hands. A too marked reserve or a too 
cold politeness might wound the lovely stranger's pride, 
and suddenly dry up the fount at which he appeared to 
have been asked to drink. But what if, on the other hand, 
this apparent kindness was a snare ? What if her interest, 
whose object he had so suddenly become, and which was 
so inexplicable to him, solely aimed at luring him to some 
false step, afterward to be used as a weapon to compromise 
him in the sight of the Thuilliers? 

■ Madame," therefore said the barrister guardedly, "I 
am in great perplexity. I had cheerfully made up my mind 
to this marriage, and you destroy my faith in it; but if I 
break it off, what employment is there in prospect for my 
then liberated talents?" 

"La Bruyere said, if I am not mistaken, that nothing 
cleanses the system like an act of folly avoided." 

"Granted. However, that is a negative advantage, and 
I am old enough and ambitious enough to look for more 
substantial results. The interest you bear me surely does 
not stop at making a blank of my mind. I love Mademoi- 
selle Colleville, not with an imperious and consuming pas- 
sion, it is true, yet still I love her. Her hand is promised 
me, and before renouncing — " 

"Well, then," the Countess interrupted him, speaking 
coldly, "let us end the debate. Your match with Mademoi- 
selle Colleville is so far advanced, and she suits you so ad- 
mirably in so many respects, that you had best marry her. 

You shall find me in the way no longer." 
(L)— Vol. 16 



266 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"But does Mademoiselle Colleville really suit me?" 
the barrister began again. 'You have just raised doubts 
in me on that very point. And do you not think it is 
rather cruel to throw two contradictory statements at me 
in succession, without any proof whatever in support ot 
either?" 

"Oh!" exclaimed the Countess impatiently, "you seem 
to insist on documentary evidence! Well, sir, there is one 
very conclusive argument I can show you — Celeste does not 
love you." 

"I admit," answered Theodose, humbly, "that I am 
looking forward to a marriage of reason." 

"She will never love you, because she never can under 
stand you. Her real husband is that little fair-haired young 
man, as tame and timid as herself. The union of those two 
characters, both without life or warmth, will produce the 
double-harnessed insipidity which, in the eyes of the society 
she was born and bred in, is the supreme essence of con- 
jugal bliss. Try to make that little fool understand that 
when money meets talent it is money that is honored! Try 
to make her odious and wretched surroundings understand 
that! Middle class upstarts! Among such do you aspire 
to rest from your long labors and severe trials! And do 
you think your gifts, weighed in the balance against their 
w r ealth, will not always be found outrageously light ? If 
on one side you put the 'Iliad,' the 'Cid, 7 the 'Freyschutz,' 
and the Vatican frescoes, and on the other a hundred thou- 
sand crowns in good, ringing cash, which side, tell me, will 
they turn to? Do you know to whom I compare the man 
of imagination thrown into a middle class atmosphere? To 
Daniel in the lions' den — without the scriptural miracle!" 

This tirade against the middle class was declaimed with 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 267 

such vigorous conviction that it could hardly fail of its in- 
cendiary intention. 

"How eloquently," exclaimed Theodose, "you express 
things which have often harassed my soul! But I have 
always felt bound by that cruel fatality, the need of a 
position — " 

"Need! Position!" broke in Madame de Godollo, her 
speech waxing hotter. "Words without sense or sound to 
men of ability, but which frighten fools as though they 
meant formidable things! Necessity! Is there such a 
thing for great men, for those who can say 'I will' ? A 
•i.iscon minister said something that ought to be engraved 
over the door of every man's career: 'Everything comes to 
him who waits.' Can you possibly be unaware that to a 
man of fine mettle marriage is either a chain which fetters 
him to vulgarity and degradation or else a pair of wings 
which carries him to the mountain tops of society? The 
woman for you, sir, is one who can sympathize with you, 
because she understands you; one who would help you in 
your work— an intelligent adviser, not a walking kitchen 
pot; one who could act as your secretary to-day, and figure 
creditably as a deputy's or ambassador's wife to morrow; 
one, in short, who would give you her heart for a sanctuary, 
her drawing-room for a stage, her connections for a ladder, 
and who, in exchange for all the inspiration and strength 
she blessed you with, would ask no more than to reflect the 
glory and the greatness of the throne she had built for you!" 

Intoxicated, in a measure, by her own language, the 
Hungarian was splendid, her eyes sparkling, her nostrils 
dilated. She seemed to finger the perspectives pictured by 
her eloquence with trembling hands. For a moment la 
Peyrade was dazzled by this gorgeous sunrise that burst 



268 BALZAC'S WORKS 

upon his life. Nevertheless, being a man most unusually 
circumspect, whose rule it was not to loan excepting on 
good, tangible security, he was impelled to examine the 
ground yet a little further. 

"Madame," said he, "you were just now reproving me 
for talking like a Philistine, and I — I very much fear you 
have been talking like a goddess. I admire you, I listen 
to you, but I am not convinced. Such devotion, such sub- 
lime self-sacrifice as you describe, are perhaps to be found 
in heaven. But who may boast of having met with it here 
on earth ?" 

"You are wrong, sir," said the Countess solemnly. 
"Such devotion is rare, but neither incredible nor impossi- 
ble. You must only have the faculty of discovering it, and 
then of keeping it, when once found." 

Upon which she rose majestically. 

La Peyrade thought he had ended by giving offence, 
and was now being dismissed. He also rose, bowed respect- 
fully, and asked the privilege of an occasional visit. 

"Monsieur," answered Madame de Grodollo, "with us 
Hungarians, who are a primitive people, and almost sav- 
ages, when the door is open, it is wide open, but when it 
is shut, it is double-bolted." 

This dignified and ambiguous remark was accompanied 
by a slight bow. Abashed and bewildered by this sort of 
behavior and speech, so new to him, and so unlike that of 
Flavie, and Brigitte, and Madame Minard, la Peyrade went 
out, asking himself if he had played the game well. He 
walked the streets for some time without definite purpose, 
but not without useful meditation. He concluded that he 
must gain time by voluntarily offering Celeste's relatives a 
further respite for the girl to come to a decision, and that 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 269 

he mast humor Thuillier by finishing his political "work." 
He accordingly, as soon as he reached his abode, wrote to 
his "dear friend" to that eflect. 

Four days later, the printer and the stitcher having 
done their office, Thuillier was able to afford himself the 
inexpressible pleasure of promenading the boulevards and 
arcades until he got to the Palais- Royal. He stopped at 
every bookseller's window where he saw the glorious title, 
in large letters, on a yellow placard— 

ON TAXATION AND REDEMPTION 

By J. Thuillier 

Of the General Council of the Seine! 

Of those publishers who were not announcing the great 
"novelty," which, in the author's opinion, would startle all 
Europe, Thuillier thought slightly. Without quite know- 
ing how to punish their neglect, he took note of these rebel 
institutions, vowing them as much evil as though he had 
received a personal affront. 

The next day he spent delightfully in writing a number 
of letters, to go with the presentation copies, marked in his 
own valuable handwriting, "With the author's compli- 
ments." But the third day of sale brought his felicity to 
a standstill. He had selected as his publisher a young man 
who had gone into bookselling on a reckless scale, and who 
had lately established himself in the Panorama arcade, 
where he paid a ruinous rental. A nephew of Barbet, the 
bookseller who was Brigitte's tenant in the Rue Saint- 
Dominique-d'Enfer, and whose notes she was in the habit 
of discounting, this Barbet junior was a youth with >ut 
prepossessions, and when he was presented to Thuillier by 



270 BALZAC'S WORKS 

his uncle, he pledged himself — with the proviso of not 
being stinted as to advertisements — to create a demand for 
a second edition in a week. Now, Thuillier had spent 
nearly fifteen hundred francs on paid advertising; copies 
galore had been sent to the newspaper offices, and the total 
issue had amounted, in three days, to seven copies, and 
three of them sold at credit at that. It might have been 
supposed that having to announce such mean results would 
have diminished the young publisher's self-assurance. On 
the contrary, however, this Guzman of a bookseller ad- 
dressed himself to his client in the following terms: "I am 
charmed," said he, "with what has happened. If we had 
sold a hundred copies, I should feel uneasy about the 
fifteen hundred we have printed. I should call that miss- 
ing fire, instead of which this very insignificant sale shows 
me that the whole edition will go off with a rush." 

"But when?" asked Thuillier, to whom this point of 
view appeared somewhat paradoxical. 

"Why," answered Barbet, "when we have articles in all 
the papers! Advertisements only serve to attract the atten- 
tion of the public. A man says to himself: 'Here is a new 
publication that may be interesting. On "Taxation and 
Eedemption" — a fine title!' But the finer the title, the 
more the people are superstitious about the contents; they 
have been caught so often ! So they wait for the newspaper 
articles, instead of which, in the case of a book destined to 
ha ye a very moderate sale, there are always a hundred 
purchasers ready made, and after them — well, that's the 
end!" 

"Then," said Thuillier, "you are hopeful about the 
sale?" 

"Quite so; I look upon it as very promising. When the 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 271 

'Debats,' the 'Constitutionnel,' the 'Steele,' and the 'Presse' 
have had their say, and especially when you have been 
slated by the 'Journal des Debats,' which is a ministerial 
sheet, it will only be a matter of a few days, and then the 
whole edition will be taken up." 

"It is very easy to talk," answered Thuillier, "but how 
does one reach all these gentlemen of the press?" 

"Oh, I will attend to that," said young Barbet. "lam 
on the best of terms with all the editors-in-chief; they say I 
am a devil of a fellow, and that I remind them of Ladvocat 
in his palmiest days." 

"Well, then, my good man, you ought to have seen them 
already." 

"Oh, allow me, Papa Thuillier, there is a certain way of 
approaching journalists, and as you have already demurred 
at the fifteen hundred francs which the advertising cost you, 
I have not ventured to suggest another expenditure." 

"But why should there be another expenditure?" asked 
Thuillier, showing some anxiety. 

"When you were nominated member of the general 
council," resumed the bookseller, "where was your elec- 
tion plotted ? ' ' 

"In my own house, of course!" 

"In your own house, as you say, but at a dinner followed 
by a ball, the said ball being concluded by a supper." 

"So you think I ought to give a journalists' dinner." 

"Yes, but not at your own house, because journalists, 
you see, are bored by women; they have to behave prop- 
erly! And then it is not a dinner we want, but a luncheon. 
In the evening, those gentlemen have their first perform- 
ances to go to, and the newspaper has to be made up, to say 
nothing of their own little affairs, instead of which in the 



272 BALZAC'S WORKS 

morning they have nothing to think of. I have always 
given luncheons." 

"But those feasts are expensive! Journalists are always 
so particular and exacting!" 

"Oh, no, twenty francs a head, without wine! Say you 
have about ten guests, with a hundred crowns you will do 
the thing very handsomely. A lunch is even preferable 
from the economic point of view, for a dinner would not 
cost you less than a five-hundred -franc note." 

"How extravagant you are, young man!" said the author. 

"Confound it! everybody knows that the deputy's seat 
is expensive, and you must remember that you are paving 
the way for your election!" 

"But how must I go about it to get these gentlemen? 
Must I go and invite them myself?" 

"Not at all! You have sent your pamphlet, and all you 
have to do is to ask them to meet you at Vefour's. They 
will understand perfectly." 

"Ten guests," then said Thuillier, beginning to enter 
into the idea. "There are not as many important news- 
papers as that." 

'Very true," acknowledged the publisher, "but we must 
ask the mongrels, too, because it is they who bark the loud- 
est. This luncheon will be talked about; they will think 
you have shown favoritism, and as many as are uninvited 
so many enemies will you have." 

"So that, in your opinion, it will be enough merely to 
send the invitations?" 

'Yes, I will make out a list, you will write the letters 
and send them to me, and I will undertake to have them 
delivered; some I will take myself." 

Barbet drew up his little list, and instead of ten names, 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 273 

as he had first stated, he counted up fifteen, without himself 
and la Peyrade, whom Thuillier wanted as a support on the 
occasion when he would most likely want assistance. When 
he had read the list submitted to him, he said — "Look here, 
my dear fellow, you have put down names of papers that 
nobody has ever heard of. What are the 'Moralisateur,' 
the 'Lanterne,' the 'Diogene,' the 'Pelican,' and the 'Echo 
de la BievreV?" 

"You will do well," answered Barbet, "not to fall foul 
of the 'Echo de la Bievre,' a paper published in the twelfth 
district, for which you intend to stand. All the important 
tanners of the Mouffetard precinct subscribe to it." 

"Well, let that one pass," said Thuillier. "But what 
about this 'Pelican' ?" 

"The 'Pelican' ? That is a paper which you will find 
in the waiting-rooms of all the dentists, who will do more 
to puff you than any one in the world. How many teeth 
do you think are pulled out every day in Paris, on the 
average?" 

"Oh, never mind that!" exclaimed Thuillier, who, in 
order to show his authority, scratched off enough names 
to reduce the total number to fourteen. 

"And if one should fail us," said Barbet, "we should 
be thirteen." 

"Pooh!" said the strong-minded Thuillier, "what do I 
care for such superstitions?" 

The lunch party was arranged to take place at V6four's, 
the favorite restaurant of middle class people and provin- 
cials. Barbet arrived even before Thuillier, who wore a 
necktie in itself sufficient to be an event in the eyes of his 
fun-loving guests. The publisher had several items of the 
bill of fare changed on his own account, and instead of 



274 BALZAC'S WORKS 

the champagne being brought on at dessert, in middle class 
fashion, he ordered that two cold bottles be put on the table 
at the beginning of the meal, with a few pounds of shrimps, 
which the host had forgotten. 

Thuillier sanctioned all these amendments reluctantly. 
After he had been there a little while, la Peyrade came. 
Then there was a decided pause in the arrival of the guests. 
The lunch was fixed for eleven o'clock, and at a quarter to 
twelve no one had as yet appeared. Barbet, who was never 
at a loss for something to say, made the consoling observa- 
tion that invitations to restaurants were like funerals, where 
every one knows that eleven o'clock means noon. Indeed, 
a little before that hour two gentlemen with goatee beards 
were ushered in, exhaling a strong smell of liquor and to- 
bacco. Thuillier thanked them effusively for the honor they 
were doing him, and then came another deadly pause, the 
horrors of which we need not describe. At one o'clock, five 
guests were assembled, Barbet and la Peyrade not included. 
It is hardly necessary to say that no self-respecting journal- 
ist of standing had answered the extraordinary invitation. 

There was nothing to do but to sit down to table. A 
few polite phrases, which were proffered Thuillier on the 
stiopendous interest of his treatise, were not enough to coun- 
teract the bitterness of this failure, and the party threatened 
to be as dull and depressing as possible. 

When, however, the oysters were eaten, the champagne 
and the Chablis that washed them down began to have their 
effect on the mental temperature. But suddenly a terrible 
and most unexpected shock came to Thuillier at the hands 
of a young man in a cap, who rushed into the banqueting 
apartment. 

"Master," said the new arrival to Barbet — he was one of 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 275 

the bookseller's clerks — "we are cooked! The police have 
come down on us! A sergeant and two men have seized the 
gentleman's pamphlet, and here is the paper they gave me 
for you!" 

"Look at this, Mister Barrister," said Barbet to la Pey- 
rade, handing him the stamped paper, a little shaken, at 
last, in his self-confidence. 

"A summons to appear before the Court of Assizes, at 
short notice," said la Peyrade after reading a few lines 
of the legal scrawl. 

"You did not comply with all the formalities?" asked 
Thuillier of the publisher, in a choking voice and as pale 
as death. 

"Oh, this is not a question of form," answered la Pey- 
rade. "It is a seizure of an offensive publication, inciting 
to hatred and contempt of the government. You will prob- 
ably find a duplicate at home, my poor Thuillier." 

"Then I have been betrayed!" cried Thuillier, losing his 
head entirely. 

"Well, my dear fellow, you know very well what j^ou 
have written in your own pamphlet. As for me, I can see 
nothing in it to hurt a cat!" 

"It is a misunderstanding!" said Barbet, picking up 
courage. "It will all be explained, and the consequence 
will be a great advertisement for us. Is it not so, gentle- 
men : 

"Waiter, a pen and ink! " exclaimed one of the journal- 
ists thus addressed. 

"Oh, you have lots of time to do your article later on," 
said one of his colleagues. "What has it got to do with 
this filet saute, anyhow?" 

This was a parody of a celebrated saying of Charles 



276 BALZAC'S WORKS 

XII., King of Sweden, who was interrupted by the explo- 
sion of a bomb while dictating a letter to one of his sec- 
retaries. 

"Gentlemen," said Thuillier, rising, "you must excuse 
me; if this, as Monsieur Barbet thinks, is all a mistake, it 
must be cleared up at once. I shall, therefore, with your 
permission, at once go to the court. La Peyrade, " he 
added in a significant tone, "you will not refuse to go 
with me. And you, my dear Mister Publisher, will do well 
to come too." 

"By Jove, no!" said Barbet junior. "When I lunch, I 
lunch! If the court has made a mistake, so much the worse 
for the court. ' ' 

"But supposing it is a strong prosecution!" cried Thuil- 
lier, in the depths of agony. 

"In that case, I shall say the truth, which is that I have 
not read a word of your pamphlet. There is only one thing 
to be afraid of: those rascally juries do not like beards. I 
shall be obliged to cut mine off, if I have to appear before 
one." 

•My dear host, pray sit down," said the editor-in-chief 
of the "Echo de la Bievre," "we will back you up! I al- 
ready have an article which will create a sensation among 
the turf merchants. That honorable corporation is a power 
in the land!" 

"No, gentlemen," said Thuillier, "no! A man like my- 
self never remains for half an hour under the shadow of 
such an indictment. Continue your meal without us. I 
hope to be back soon. Are you coming, la Peyrade?" 

"He is delightful," said Barbet, seeing Thuillier and his 
adviser go. "'The idea of leaving a luncheon after the 
oysters to go and talk with a donkey of a deputy judge! 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 277 

Come gentlemen, let us close up the ranks!" he added with 
enthusiasm. 

"Hello!" said one of the hungry journalists who was 
looking into the garden of the Palais Boyal, upon which 
the dining-room fronted, "there is Barbanchu passing by! 
Shall I ask him up ?" 

"Yes, of course," exclaimed young Barbet. 

"Barbanchu! Barbanchu!" then cried out the reputed 
journalist. 

Barbanchu, with a pointed hat on his head, took some 
time to rind the cloud from whence came the voice. 

"Here! here!" called the voice, which he recognized as 
a celestial one when he saw that he was being hailed by a 
man with a glass of champagne in his hand. As he still 
hesitated, he heard a chorus of — "Come up, old fellow, 
come up! There is lots to eat!" 

Thuilher left the court without the vestige of an illusion 
remaining. A suit of the severest kind was being brought 
against him, and, from the severity of his reception, he was 
led to believe that he would be shown no indulgence. And 
then, as it often happens between accomplices after the ship- 
wreck of their common enterprise, began bitter accusations 
against la Peyrade. Under the sting of their injustice his 
resentment grew; but knowing himself to be powerless, and 
not desiring a rupture, he finally bade Thuillier good-by, 
saying that he forgave a man in an unnatural state of alarm, 
and that he would come back in the afternoon to see if 
he had recovered. In the meanwhile, they might consider 
what further steps ought to be taken. 

At four o'clock, therefore, the Provencal went to the 
house in the Boulevard Madeleine. Thuillier's anger was 
appeased, and had given way to a fit of terrible consterna- 



278 BALZAC'S WORKS 

tion. Had he been waiting to be taken away to the scaffold 
in half an hour, he could not have been more completely 
dejected and unstrung. When the barrister came in, Ma- 
dame Thuillier was engaged in dosing her husband with a 
cup of lime-leaf tea. The poor woman had been roused 
from her usual apathy, and was proving herself a veritable 
Eponina to this Sabinus. As for Brigitte, who soon ap- 
peared on the scene carrying a foot bath, she had nothing 
but scorn for the barrister. Her unreasonable scolding, out 
of all proportion to the offence — presuming, always, that 
one had been committed — would have made the calmest in- 
dividual lose his balance. La Peyrade felt that he had lost 
his place with these people, who seemed to rejoice in every 
opportunity to break faith with him, and to indulge them- 
selves in the most provoking ingratitude. Upon a sarcastic 
illusion to his method of obtaining medals for his friends — 
such as the Cross of the Legion — he rose and took his leave 
without the slightest effort being made to keep him. 

Taking a turn in the street, the Provencal in the midst 
of his indignation had a sudden reminiscence of Madame 
de Godollo, and, to speak truth, his thoughts had often 
been with the fair foreigner since their first interview. 
More than once, when she was at the Thuilliers', had she 
adjourned the session upon his appearance there, and this 
manoeuvre was repeated whenever they met. Without get- 
ting to the bottom of it, la Peyrade told himself that this 
exhibition of fleeing him signified something else than in- 
difference. To return at once to the Countess after the first 
visit would have been inopportune, but now a sufficient 
term had elapsed to make it plain that he was a man with 
entire control over himself. He therefore retraced his steps, 
and without asking the porter if the lady was at home, act- 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 279 

ing as though he were on his way back to the Thuilliers', he 
rang the bell on the first floor. 

He found evidence of pain in the lovely stranger's face, 
which did not at all detract from her seductiveness. On the 
sofa where she was sitting, there lay open beside her a letter 
on gilt-edge paper, written in the large legible hand indicat- 
ing official origin from some minister's study or some lega- 
tion. In her hand was a cut-glass smelling bottle, with a 
chased gold stopper, and a strong odor of scented vinegar 
permeated the apartment. 

"Are you ill, Madame?" asked la Peyrade solicitously. 

"Oh, no, it is nothing," said the stranger, "merely one 
of my headaches, to which I am subject. But you, Mon- 
sieur, where have you been ? I was beginning to lose hope 
of ever seeing you again. Is it some great piece of news 
that you have come to tell me ? Your marriage with Mad- 
emoiselle Colleville is now near enough to be the subject of 
a communication?" 

This beginning somewhat disconcerted la Peyrade. 

"You seem to be," he answered in an almost rude tone, 
"well enough informed about what passes in the Thuillier 
establishment to know that nothing of the kind is arranged 
or, I may even s?y, probable." 

"No, I assure you, I know nothing. I have altogether 
storped manifesting any interest in that affair, which I 
ought never to have meddled with. I talk about every- 
thing with Mademoiselle Brigitte, excepting Celeste's mar- 
riage. ' ' 

"And it is no doubt the desire to leave me free to discuss 
that subject which puts you to flight, whenever I have the 
honor of meeting you in our friends' house." 

"Of course," said the Countess, "that must be the reason 



280 BALZAC'S WORKS 

why I resigned the field to you. What other motive could 
there be?" 

"Oh, there are very many motives for avoiding a man. 
For instance, if he has given displeasure, or if advice which 
has been given him very kindly has not been given the 
respectful consideration it deserved." 

"Oh, my dear sir, I am not such an ardent proselytizer 
as to be offended when people do not take my advice! I 
am just as liable to have taken a wrong view as any one 
else." 

"Quite the contrary, in the matter of my marriage, your 
point of view was quite right." 

"What?" said the Countess, "did the seizure of the 
pamphlet, coming after the vainly expected Cross, bring 
about a rupture ?" 

"No," answered the barrister, "my influence with the 
Thuilliers rests on a more solid foundation, and on account 
of services I have rendered Mademoiselle Brigitte and her 
brother, these two misfortunes are happily to be mended — " 

"Do you think so ?" the Countess interrupted him with 
an incredulous look. 

"Of course," answered Theodose, "if the Countess de 
Bruel takes it into her head to secure the red ribbon, in 
spite of the hindrances opposing her kind intentions, she 
will undoubtedly succeed in a feat which, after all, is not 
superhuman." 

The Countess smiled at this remark and shook her head. 

"But it was only a few days ago, Madame, that the Coun- 
tess de Bruel was telling Madame Colleville how she was 
nettled by the unforeseen check, and how she was going to 
see the minister in person." 

"But you must not forget that since then there has been 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 28 i 

a judicial seizure, and that it is not customary to wait for a 
man to be called before the Court of Assizes, to confer a 
medal upon him. This seziure, you may not have observed, 
argues against Monsieur, and perhaps against yourself — as 
you are the real culprit — malicious intent, to a stronger 
degree than you imagine. On this occasion tlie court does 
not seem to have taken the initiative itself." 

"I admit," he said, after a hasty glance at the Countess, 
"that I have vainly tried to discover in the incriminated 
document anything to warrant this attack." 

"It is my opinion, too, that his Majesty's servants must 
have drawn largely upon their imagination, in order to reach 
the conviction that a seditious work was in their hands, but 
this is all the better proof of the powerful underground in- 
fluence at work in perverting all your intentions on behalf 
of our excellent Monsieur Thuillier. " 

"Our secret enemies," said la Peyrade, "do you know 
them?" 

"Perhaps," smiled the Countess again. 

"Madame," said la Peyrade, "might I venture a sus- 
picion ?" 

"Say on," answered Madame de Godollo, "I will not be 
angry with you for guessing. ' ' 

"Well, then, our enemies, that is Thuillier's and mine, 
are a woman." 

"Let us assume it to be so. Do you know how many 
lines of a man's handwriting Richelieu required to hung 
him?" 

"Four," answered la Peyrade. 

"Then you will understand that a pamphlet of two hun- 
dred pages may have furnished a woman of — perspicacity — 
matter enough for a prosecution." 



282 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"I see everything!" cried la Peyrade excitedly. "I 
think the woman is one in a hundred, that she is as cunning 
and clever as Richelieu himself, that — adorable witch that 
she is — not only does she set justice and the police in 
motion, but that she can spirit a Cross from the hand of 
a minister, just as he is in the act of pinning it to a man's 
breast!" 

"In that case," asked the Countess, "what is the use ot 
fighting against her?" 

"Oh! I shall fight no more," answered la Peyrade, meas- 
uring her regard for him by the kindness of her interests. 
And with pretended contrition, he added — "I fear, Madame, 
you must hate me very much!" 

"Not as much as you might suppose. But, after all, 
what if I did hate you?" 

"Ah, Madame," exclaimed la Peyrade rapturously, "I 
should be the most fortunate of unfortunates, for your 
hatred is a thousand times sweeter to me and a thousand 
times more precious than your indifference!" 

Madame de Godollo did not reply. She lowered her 
eyes, and in a slightly altered tone said — "How can a man 
of your stoicism care enough about a woman's hatred to 
attach importance to it?" 

"Ah! but I do attach a great deal of importance to it; 
not because I want to rebel against it, but because I must 
bless the hand that has vouchsafed to descend so heavily 
upon me! My fair foe once known and confessed, I should 
not despair of touching her heart. For never again would 
I walk in a path that was not hers; never again would I 
fight under a banner not unfolded by her; all my thoughts 
would be inspired by her; her will should be mine; the 
least of her commands should be law to me; in everything 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 283 

I should be her ally. More than that — her slave! And 
were she to spurn me with her tiny foot, chastise me with 
her lovely white hand, I should endure it all joyfully ! For 
all my submission and obedience, I should ask only one 
favor in return — to kiss the imprint of that foot, and to 
cover that hand with my tears!" 

During this long outpouring of ecstatic emotions, which 
the anticipation of victory had wrung from the heart of the 
impressionable Provencal, he had slipped from his chair, 
and at last was on the floor before the Countess, on one 
knee, in the conventional theatrical attitude, but which is 
more frequent in real life than one would imagine. 

"Get up," said the Countess, "and answer me." Then, 
fixing a searching glance at him, from under her handsome 
knitted brows, "Have you fully weighed the import of the 
words that have fallen from your mouth ? Have you 
gauged their meaning and their depth? Your hand on 
your heart and conscience, are you the man to redeem all 
they promise? Are you sure that you are not one of those 
dastardly creatures who, with feigned humility, embrace 
our knees, the better to overcome our will power and our 
reason?" 

"I?" exclaimed la Peyrade. "What! I ever overcome 
the fascination that began at our first meeting? Ah! Ma- 
dame, the more I have resisted, and the more I have strug- 
gled against it, the more must you believe in my sincerity 
and my lasting enthralment! As I have spoken, so do I 
think. What I am thinking aloud to-day, I have been 
thinking in my heart from the day I first had the honor of 
being received here; and the long days through which I 
have fought against the spell have fortified me in the very 
loyalty to you that I would fain have choked!" 



284 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"Still, do not pledge yourself too hastily. We foreigners 
do not understand the frivolity with which the French some- 
times enter upon the most solemn engagements. To us the 
word 'yes' is as sacred as an oath; our word is as good as our 
deed. We neither think nor do anything by halves. My 
family coat-of-arms bears the motto, not inappropriate to 
this case, 'Everything or Nothing. ' That is saying a great 
deal, and yet hardly enough." 

"Oh! that is a motto after my own heart!" answered 
the lawyer; "and my first act, when I leave here, will be 
to break forever with the shameful past which I seemed to 
weigh in the balance for a moment against the intoxicating 
future which vou do not forbid me to look to." 

"No," said the lady, "do not go at such a mad rate. I 
do not like to see people jump over precipices. These 
Thuilliers are good enough people at bottom, although 
they have hurt your feelings without so intending. Is it 
their fault that they belong to a class of society different 
from yours? Untie the knot, but do not cut it. And, 
above all, take time. Your conversion to my religion is 
so very sudden and new ! How can you be sure what lan- 
guage your heart will speak to-morrow?" 

"I am quite sure! We Southerners do not love like 
other Frenchmen!" 

"But," said the Hungarian with a charming smile, "I 
thought we were talking about hatred!" And she held out 
her hand to the barrister, with a gesture at once pretty and 
bashful. The barrister, quite beside himself, rushed at the 
hand and devoured it with kisses. 

"Enough, child!" said the foreigner, gently disengaging 
her hand, "and good-by for the present. I think my head- 
ache is gone." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 285 

La Peyrade took up his hat and was about to dash out 
of the room, but, halting at the door, he turned round and 
cast a look of eloquent tenderness at the Countess. She 
nodded him a graceful good- by, and as la Peyrade made a 
step toward her, she shook her finger at him, intimating 
that he was to remain where he was. He then passed out 
of the apartment. On the staircase he stopped to exhale, 
so to speak, the happiness with which his heart was over- 
flowing. The words of the Countess, and the ingenious 
way in which she had wormed his sentiments from him, 
were sufficient guarantees to him of her sincerity, and he 
departed with faith unbounded. 

He could bear the burden of his great resolution no 
longer than the next day, and accordingly went to the 
Thuilliers'. He arrived there in the most hostile and aggres- 
sive humor. But judge of his astonishment when, before 
giving him an opportunity to place himself on guard against 
a demonstration of forgiveness and renewed friendship, 
Thuillier threw himself into his arms. 

"My friend," cried the ex-assistant chief, as he released 
the barrister from his embrace, "my political fortune is 
made! All the newspapers this morning, without exception, 
are talking of the seizure of my pamphlet, and you ought to 
see how the opposition papers cut up the government!" 

"That is simple enough," said The'odose, without sharing 
his enthusiasm; "they are using you as a subject to write 
about. But far from improving your case, that will only 
make the court more anxious to pronounce sentence 
against you." 

"Well, then," said Thuillier, proudly lifting his head, 
"I shall go to prison like Beranger, Lamennais, and Ar- 
mand Carrel." 



286 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"From a distance, my dear fellow, persecution looks 
very handsome, but when you hear the heavy bolts closing 
on you, you may be sure it will seem a much less poetical 
business." 

"But," objected Thuillier, "political offenders are always 
allowed to serve their time in a private asylum, and besides, 
I have not been condemned yet. You were of the opinion 
yourself yesterday that an acquittal might be hoped for." 

"Yes, but since then I have heard things which render 
that view very doubtful. The same hand that withheld the 
Cross from you must have descended upon your Treatise. 
It is a case of premeditated murder." 

"Since you know my dangerous enemy," said Thuil- 
lier, "I suppose you will not refuse to designate him 
to me?" 

"I did not say I knew him, I merely have my suspicions. 
But that shows that you are always ready with a trap." 

"A trap? What do you mean?" said Thuillier in a 
tone of curiosity which proved an entire unconsciousness 
of any such guilt. 

"Why, you made Celeste a sort of decoy, to attract the 
birds to your house. Every one has not Monsieur Grode- 
schal's magnanimity, who, after being refused, came out so 
generously in the matter of the bid on the house." 

"Explain yourself more fully; I do not in the least 
understand. ' ' 

"Nothing is easier to understand. Without counting 
myself, how many suitors are there for the hand of Mad- 
emoiselle Colleville ? Grodesclfal, young Minard, young 
Phellion, Olivier Yinet, the deputy judge — all of them 
men who have been turned off as I have." 

"Olivier Vinet?" cried Thuillier, as if struck by a ray 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 287 

of light. "It is from there of course that the blow has 
come! His father is said to have a very long arm. And 
then it is said we turned him off, to use your rather crude 
expression. He spent an evening with us, and made no 
offer; no more, in fact, than Minard or Phellion. Only 
Godeschal took that risk, and he was refused without hesi- 
tation, and without his head being held under water." 

"That may be true," la Peyrade went on, still seeking a 
quarrel. "It is only those who come out plainly with their 
speech that are strung up to the lamp-post." 

"Come now," said Thuillier, "whom are you aiming at 
with your insinuations? Did you not the other day arrange 
everything with Brigitte. A nice time you are choosing to 
come talking to me about your love affairs, when the sword 
of justice is raised over my head." 

"I see," sneered la Peyrade, "now you are trying to 
exploit your interesting position as a victim of the law. I 
knew perfectly well this would happen, and that, once the 
Treatise was written, you would forget all about my 
assistance." 

"Pshaw! 1 do admire your supposition of the Treatise 
having brought me consideration, when, as a matter of 
fact, it has given rise to the most deplorable complica- 
tions." 

"How deplorable? Your political fortune is made!" 

"Really, my dear boy," said Thuillier with emotion, "I 
should never have thought that you would have chosen my 
hour of adversity to come and point a pistol at my head, 
and make me the object of your scorn!" 

"Come now," said la Peyrade, "here is your hour of 
adversity, and only a moment ago you threw yourself into 
my arms, like 'a man who had had a great stroke of luck. 



288 BALZAC'S WORKS 

Is it not time to make up your mind whether you are de- 
serving of pity or whether you are a triumphant hero?" 

"It is all very well for you to do the clever," answered 
Thuillier. "You will not make me contradict myself. I 
am logical, I am, even if I am not a genius. Naturally 
enough, I am consoled at seeing public opinion side with 
me, and at being honored with its esteemed sympathy 
through its printed organs. But do you not think that I 
would not have preferred it if things had taken their 
course ? Seeing myself the butt of low malignity on the 
part of people as influential as the Yinets, how can I fore- 
see what dangers I am exposed to?" 

"It seems to me," said la Peyrade with pitiless insist- 
ence, "that you are like Weeping Will!" 

"Yes," answered Thuillier, gravely — "Will who is 
weeping over a friendship he thought true and devoted, 
but which has nothing but sarcasm to give when I am 
expecting help." 

"What help?" demanded la Peyrade. "Did you not 
declare distinctly enough that you were done forever with 
any collaboration of mine? I offered to plead for you, and 
you answered that you would engage some great lawyer." 

"Perhaps I did so in the first moment of bewilderment, 
when that sudden blow struck me down; perhaps I may 
then have said such a foolish thing. But, after all, who is 
better qualified than yourself to explain the meaning of 
what came from your own pen ? Yesterday I forgot my- 
self, and you, with your wounded pride that knows no 
pardon for a slight offence, are to-day a very satirical and 
a very cruel person." 

"Then," asked la Peyrade, "are you proposing formal^ 
that I defend you before the jury?" 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 289 

"Of course, my dear fellow, for I do not see into what 
other hands I can put my case. I should pay an absurd 
price to some line legal light, and he would defend me less 
skilfully than you would." 

"Well, then, I refuse! Our roles, you see, are com- 
pletely changed. Yesterday I thought, as you do, that I 
was the man for this case. To-day, I think you had better 
employ some barrister of renown, because, you see, now that 
Vinet is in the held, the affair has assumed such propor- 
tions as to frighten any one from taking the responsibility 
of pleading for you." 

"I understand," said Thuillier ironically, "Monsieur was 
always aiming at a judgeship, and does not want a quarrel 
with the man who has already been mentioned as a probable 
Keeper of the Seals. You are very prudent, no doubt, but 
I cannot see how it will help on your marriage." 

"That is to say," retorted la Peyrade, catching the ball 
at the rebound, "that to rescue you from the claws of the 
jury is the thirteenth labor of Hercules imposed upon me 
to win Mademoiselle Colleville's hand. I was right in an- 
ticipating that your demands would increase as fast as the 
proofs of my friendship to you. But I am thoroughly tired 
of all that, and to put an end to this puppet show, I have 
come to tell you that I want to give you back your word. 
So, you can dispose of Celeste's hand in any way you like; 
for my part I have no further pretensions." 

Thuillier was dumfounded, and left speechless, by this 
abrupt and downright statement. Just then Brigitte came 
in. She was in a much more amicable mood than the day 
before, for her first words were full of hearty familiarity. 

"Ah, there you are," said she to Theodose, "my prom- 
ising young lawyer!" 
(M)— Vol. 16 



290 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"Mademoiselle, I bid you good-da y," answered the Pro- 
vencal, with solemnity. 

"Well," said the old maid, not noticing la Peyrade's 
ceremonious behavior, ' 'the government have got them- 
selves into a nice mess, confiscating your pamphlet! You 
ought to see how the newspapers are scorching them this 
morning! Here is a paper published in our old district, 
'L'Echo de la Bievre.' " 

Thuillier took the sheet and read the article with which 
the editor's grateful stomach had inspired his pen. "Yes," 
said he, folding the paper up, "it is a warm article, and very 
flattering to me. But I have something else to say. This 
gentleman, here present, has declared that he will not plead 
for me, and that he renounces his claim to Celeste's hand." 

"He means," answered Brigitte, "that he retires if, after 
pleading, we do not allow the marriage at once. Well, I 
think the poor boy's wish is reasonable enough. After he 
has done this for us, there shall be no further delay, and 
whether the arrangement suits Mademoiselle Celeste or not, 
she must agree to it, because there is a limit to everything." 

"Your argument, Mademoiselle," said la Peyrade, 
"might have some semblance of correctness if there were 
no other barristers but myself. Only, as the streets are 
paved with them, and as Thuillier himself only yesterday 
was talking of engaging a barrister of note, I do not feel 
the least compunction in refusing to undertake his defence. 
Now, as to this marriage, in order that it may not once more 
be made the subject of some brutal bargain, I withdraw 
from it altogether, in the most emphatic manner, and noth- 
ing shall now prevent Mademoiselle Colleville from accept- 
ing Monsieur Phellion's advances." 

"Quite as you please, my dear gentleman," answered 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 291 

Brigitte. "If that is your last word, we shall have no diffi- 
culty in finding a husband for Celeste, Monsieur Phellion or 
some one else; but allow me to say to you that the reason 
you give is not the true one, for after all one cannot go 
faster than one can run. If the wedding were decided upon 
to-day, the banns would still have to be published, and you 
know well enough that the mayor could not marry you 
before all the regular formalities had been complied with, 
and that in the interval Thuillier would be undergoing 
trial." 

"Yes," said la Peyrade, "and if I lost the case, you 
would say that it was I who got Thuillier into prison, just 
as it was I who was to blame for the seizure." 

"My dear sir, it seems to me that if you had written 
nothing the police would have had nothing to seize." 

"Your reasoning is wrong, my dear girl," said Thuillier, 
perceiving that la Peyrade was shrugging his shoulders, 
"in that the document is not really incriminating from any 
point of view. It is not la Peyrade's fault if very influ- 
ential people have singled me out as a victim of organized 
persecution. You remember that little deputy judge, Mon- 
sieur Olivier Vinet, whom Cardot brought in one evening? 
It appears that he and his father are enraged because we 
did not want him for Celeste, and that they have sworn 
revenge." 

"But why did we refuse him," said Brigitte, "if not for 
the sake of our young gentleman here ? For a Paris deputy 
is not a match to be despised." 

"No doubt, " said la Peyrade coolly, "only, he was not 
ready to contribute quite a million." 

"What?" exclaimed Brigitte, angrily. "If you are 
going to talk of the house you told us to buy, I will tell 



292 BALZAC'S WORKS 

you that if you had had enough money to buy off the no- 
tary yourself, you would not have run after us. You need 
not think that I was altogether fooled by you. You spoke 
just now of a bargain, but it was you yourself who proposed 
it: 'Give me Celeste and I will give you the house.' That 
is what you said with your own mouth, and there were 
unforeseen expenses at that." 

"Come, Brigitte," said her brother, "you are splitting 
hairs!" 

"Splitting hairs!" repeated Brigitte. "Was the sum 
first mentioned exceeded, or was it not?" 

"My dear Thuillier," said la Peyrade, "I think, as you 
do, that the discussion is exhausted, and that to grind it 
over again will only lead to more unpleasantness. My mind 
was made up before I came, so that nothing that can be said 
will shake my purpose. I shall not remain your son-in-law, 
but we shall nevertheless remain good friends." And he 
rose to go. 

"One moment, Master Lawyer!" then said Brigitte, bar- 
ring his way; "there is something else that is by no means 
exhausted, and now that we are to dissolve partnership, I 
should be much obliged if you would tell me what has be- 
come of the sum of ten thousand francs that Thuillier gave 
you for those rascals in the government who were to get 
us the Cross, which has not yet made its appearance?" 

"Brigitte," said Thuillier in agony, "you have the 
tongue of a serpent. You were not supposed to know of 
this, which I told you in a moment of ill humor, and you 
gave me your promise never to speak of it to any one." 

"No, but as I said," answered the implacable old maid, 
"we are dissolving partnership. When you dissolve part- 
nership, affairs are liquidated. Ten thousand francs! High 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 293 

enough for a real Cross, that! But for a Cross in the clouds 
it is an altogether higher price than I care to pay!" 

"Come, dear Theodose," said Thuillier, going up to the 
barrister, now pale with anger, "do not listen to Brigitte; 
her affection for me has got the better of her. I know very 
well what those officials are, and I would not be astonished 
if you had put in some of your own money besides ours.' 1 

"Sir," answered la Peyrade, "unfortunately I am unable 
to immediately return you the sum demanded of me in such 
an insulting manner. But I will ask you to be good enough 
to grant me a slight respite, and if a promissory note will 
quiet your impatience, I am ready to sign one. 

"Go to the devil with your note!" exclaimed Thuillier. 
"You owe me nothing, and it is we who are in your debt; 
for Cardot told me that for the splendid property you put 
into our hands you were entitled to at least ten thousand 
francs." 

"Cardot! Cardot!" shouted Brigitte. "He is very gen- 
erous with other people's money!' "We gave him Celeste — 
that was worth a great deal more than ten thousand francs!" 

Upon this, la Peyrade flung her a contemptuous look, 
and stalked out majestically. He observed that Thuillier 
was motioning him to stay, but a furious gesture from Bri- 
gitte, queen and mistress as ever, riveted her brother to the 
spot where he was standing. 

Arrived at home, the barrister consummated his emanci- 
pation by writing to Madame Colleville, that, his marriage 
with Celeste being broken off, he thought it well, from mo- 
tives of propriety as well as from delicacy, not to show 
himself there again. 

The next day, as la Peyrade was about to go to the 
Countess, to pay homage to her, and put his bravely recon- 



294 - BALZAC'S WORKS 

quered liberty at her feet, he received a scented note. It 
made his heart beat violently, for on the seal he recognized 
the famous Everything or Nothing, which had been given 
him as the rule for the relationship begun between them. 

"Dear Monsieur," wrote Madame de Godollo, "I guessed 
what conclusion you would come to. Thank you! But I 
must now think of one for myself, for you do not suspect 
me of wishing to stay forever in the social circle that is so 
foreign to us both, and to which 1 am now no longer bound 
by any interests whatever. To arrange for a change, and not 
to be called to account for harboring on the first floor a 
voluntary exile from the second, I must have to-day and 
to-morrow to myself. So, do not come to see me until 
day after to-morrow. By that time, I shall have settled 
with Brigitte, as they say on the Stock Exchange, and I 
shall have much to tell you. Tua tota, 

"Torna de Godollo." 

The "wholly thine," in Latin, delighted la Peyrade, who 
was not, however, astonished at it, since Latin is a second 
national language in Hungary. The two days of waiting, 
to which he was condemned, fanned the flame of passion 
that was consuming him, and when on the appointed day he 
arrived at the house in the Boulevard Madeleine, his love 
had reached a degree of incandescence to which he would 
have believed himself incapable a few days before. 

This time la Peyrade was seen by the porter's wife, but 
apart from not wishing to be suspected of going to the 
Thuilliers, he was quite indifferent as to his purpose in 
the house being known. The ice being broken, his good 
fortune was now official, and he was more disposed to cry it 
out to the world than to make a mystery of it. After skip- 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS- 295 

ping gayly up the steps, the barrister was just about to pull 
the bell, when, putting out his hand for the silk rope near 
the door, he observed that the bell-pull was gone. His first 
thought was that the absence of that article might be ac- 
counted for by an illness in which the patient could bear to 
hear no noises of any description. But other observations 
followed at once, which invalidated this theory, not a con- 
soling one, in any event. 

From the vestibule to the Countess's door, a stair carpet, 
fixed at each step by a brass rod, rendered the ascent soft 
and easy to visitors. The carpet had been removed. The 
door was masked by outer swing doors covered with green 
velvet. Of these, there was no sign left, but the slight 
damage done the wall by the workmen who had taken 
them away. 

In his momentary agitation, the barrister thought he was 
on the wrong floor, but he soon corrected his impression 
by looking over the banister. Was Madame de Godollo 
moving ? 

The Provengal resigned himself to knocking at the great 
lady's door as one would at a grisette's, but his rap was 
responded to by that hollow sound denoting emptiness. 
At the same time, he noticed under the door, which he was 
in vain belaboring with his knuckles, the bright streak 
which betrays an uninhabited apartment, where there are 
no curtains, no carpets, and no furniture to deaden sound 
and dull the light of day. Forced to conclude the Countess 
had actually moved, la Peyrade imagined that, since his 
rupture with Brigitte, the old maid had caused this sudden 
departure by some unpardonable rudeness. But why had 
he not been told? What was this singular idea of putting 
him in the ridiculous position popularly and picturesquely 



296 BALZAC'S WORKS 

known as "Finding a face of wood"? Before leaving the 
place, he decided upon a last vigorous assault upon 
the door. 

"Who is there, trying to knock the house down?" 
screeched the porter's wife, attracted by the barrister's 
violent demonstration. 

"Does Madame cle Grodollo no longer live here?" 

"Certainly not, since she has moved out. If the gentle- 
man had told me he was going to see her, I could have 
saved him the trouble of breaking down the door. ' ' 

"I knew she was to leave her apartment," lied la Pey 
rade, not wishing to betray his ignorance of the Countess's 
intentions, "but I did not think she would be going so 
soon. ' ' 

"Must have been in a hurry," said the woman. "Went 
in a post-chaise this morning." 

"Went in a post-chaise!" repeated la Peyrade, in amaze- 
ment. "Has she left Paris, then?" 

"Probably. It's not the custom here to take horses and 
a postilion to go from one house to another. 

"And she did not tell you where she was going?" 

"Monsieur has queer notions, if he thinks the tenants 
tell us their affairs." 

"No— but her letters — if any should arrive after her 
departure — " 

"Letters? I've orders to forward them to Monsieur le 
Commandeur, the little old gentleman who came to see her 
so often. You must have met him here." 

"Yes, yes, of course," said la Peyrade, keeping his 
presence of mind under these successive shocks, "the old 
gentleman with powdered hair, who came nearly every 
day." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 297 

"Not exactly every day, but very often. Well, it is to 
him I am to send the Countess's letters." 

"And her other acquaintances?" asked the Provencal 
casually. "Did she say nothing about them?" 

"No, sir, nothing." 

"Very well, my good woman, I thank you." And he 
turned to go. 

"But I think," said the porter's wife, "that Mademoiselle 
upstairs will know more about it than I. Will Monsieur 
not go up? She is at home, and so is Monsieur Thuillier." 

"No, it would be no use. I came to see Madame de 
Godollo about a commission I was to do for her. I have 
not time to stay." 

"Yes, as I tell you, she left in a post-chaise this morn- 
ing. If Monsieur had only come two hours earlier he 
would still have found her here. But by this time she 
must be a long way off." 

With her fancy for saying everything twice over, this 
woman, who had been plying la Peyrade with such unkind 
information, seemed to dwell on the details that would tor- 
ture him most. He went out of the house with despair in 
his soul. To say nothing of the stab this sudden departure 
had given him, he was invaded by jealousy, and in this 
acute state of terrible disappointment the most appalling 
possibilities presented themselves to his mind. 

After meditating for a time, "These diplomatic women," 
said he to himself, "are often charged with secret missions, 
which demand absolute discretion and rapid movements." 
Then, as if under a quick reaction — "But supposing she 
were one of those adventuresses whom foreign governments 
so often employ as their agents ? What if the history of the 
Russian Princess obliged to sell her furniture at such short 



298 BALZAC'S WORKS 

notice were also that of my Hungarian lady? However," 
lie resumed, after another somersault of his brain, which 
was reeling in a very anarchy of ideas and emotions, "her 
education, her manners, her speech, everything proclaims 
her a woman with a high position in society. And besides, 
if she were only a bird of passage, why should she have 
taken so much trouble to captivate me?" 

La Peyrade would have continued to weigh the argu- 
ments, for and against, had he not felt himself violently 
seized from behind, and had not a familiar voice exclaimed: 
"My dear barrister, take care! A horrible death threatens 
you! You are rushing headlong to destruction!" 

Starting up, la Peyrade found himself in the arms of 
Phellion. 

This happened in front of a house in process of demoli- 
tion, at the corner of the Rue Duphot and the Rue Saint- 
Honore*. 

Posted on the pavement opposite, Phellion, whose pro- 
nounced predilection for building operations will be remem- 
bered, had for a quarter of an hour been watching the 
drama of a wall about to give way to the united efforts 
of a squad of workmen. Watch in hand, the great citizen 
was computing the probable duration of the resistance of this 
mass of stone and plaster to the human hands conspiring to 
upset it. It was just at the hottest moment of the imminent 
catastrophe that la Peyrade, lost in the maze of his thoughts, 
and without paying attention to the warnings addressed to 
him from all sides, was entering the radius within which 
the wall would presumably fall. Seen by Phellion who 
would have done the same for a stranger — la Pe\^rade cer- 
tainly owed him his escape from an awful death, for at the 
very moment he was pulled back by the philanthropist's 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 299 

arm, the wall came to the ground a few paces from him, 
with the noise of a cannon-shot, and amid huge clouds 
of dust. 

"Thank you, sir," said the barrister, shaking his sav- 
ior's hand, "if it had not been for you, I should have 
been crushed to death." 

"My reward," said Phellion, "is the satisfaction of 
having rescued you from such frowning danger. And I 
may say that my satisfaction is not unmixed with pride, 
for I was not two seconds wrong in calculating the mo- 
ment when that redoubtable block would shift its centre of 
gravity. But what may you have been thinking of, my 
dear sir? No doubt of the speech you are going to make 
in defence of Thuillier, since the public press has informed 
me of the public vengeance about to descend upon the head 
of our respected friend. It is a noble cause, sir, that you 
are championing. Accustomed as I am, owing to my ac- 
tivity on the reading committee of the Odeon, to form an 
opinion on productions of the mind, after examining several 
passages of the incriminating document, I cannot find that 
the tone of this pamphlet is of a character to justify tiie 
severe measures initiated against it. Between ourselves," 
added the great citizen, lowering his voice, "I confess that 
the government is doing a small thing." 

"My view, also," said la Peyrade, "but the defence will 
not devolve upon me. I have urged Thuillier to call in the 
assistance of some lawyer of reputation." 

"That may be good advice, and in any case it does honor 
to your modesty. No doubt you have just been to see him, 
our dear friend? I was at his house on the day the bomb 
exploded, and I am on my way there now. At my first 
visit I did not see him, I only found Brigitte, who was 



300 BALZAC'S WORKS 

engaged in argument with Madame de Grodollo — a woman 
with political views. She had actually prophesied the 
seizure!" 

"Did you know the Countess had left Paris?" said la 
Peyrade, availing himself of the first opportunity to indulge 
the theme of his monomania. 

"Oh, she has left, has she? Well, my dear sir, I must 
tell you — although there was little love lost between her and 
yourself — that I look upon her departure as a misfortune. 
It will leave a great gap in the Thuillier circle. I tell you 
that because I think so, and because I am not in the habit 
of concealing my thoughts." 

"To be sure, she was a very distinguished woman, with 
whom I might perhaps have come to an understanding, in 
spite of her prejudices. But this morning, without leaving 
word as to where she was going, she suddenly went off in 
a post-chaise." 

"A post-chaise!" exclaimed Phellion. "I do not know 
if you share my prepossession, but I consider that a most 
enjoyable manner of travelling, and Louis XI., to whom we 
owe that admirable institution, hit upon a very happy idea; 
although, on the other hand, his sanguinary and despotic 
rule was not always — according to my poor lights— entirely 
free from reproach. Once only in my life have I made use 
of this mode of locomotion, and I must declare it a very su- 
perior way of travelling, in spite of the relatively inferior 
speed — " 

These last words were a flash of light to la Peyrade, 
and without waiting for the continuation of the great citi- 
zen's postal Odyssey, he was tearing off in the direction of 
the Rue Pigalle, even before Phellion, cut short in his sen- 
tence, was fully aware of his disappearance. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 301 

Arrived at the office of the royal postal service, la Pey- 
rade was rather at a loss how to go about obtaining the in- 
formation he had come for. He began by explaining to the 
porter that he had a letter of very great importance to 
transmit to a lady of his acquaintance; that said lady had 
neglected to leave him her address; and that he had thought 
he might learn, from the passport she must have presented 
in order to hire the horses, what her destination was. Here 
he was interrupted. 

"Is it a lady travelling with her maid, and whom I 
loaded up near the Madeleine?" asked a postilion, sitting 
in the corner of the room where la Peyrade was instituting 
his inquiries. 

"Exactly so," said the lawyer, quickly going up to this 
providential person, and slipping a five-franc piece into 
his hand. 

"Ha, ha! She's a funny traveller, she is!" said the 
postilion. "She told me to take her to the Bois de Bou- 
logne, where she made me drive her about for an hour; 
then we stopped at the Barriere de l'Etoile, where she gave 
me a good fee, and took a cab, telling me to drive the 
coach back to a livery stable in the Saint-Honor^ dis- 
trict." 

"And the name of the livery stable?" quickly asked la 
Peyrade. 

"It belongs to Monsieur Simonin." 

Armed with this piece of news, la Peyrade resumed his 
search, and a quarter of an hour later stood in the presence 
of the livery man. This individual only knew that a 
lady living close to the Madeleine had hired a travelling 
coach, without horses, for the half-day, and that the car- 
riage had been sent at nine o'clock in the morning, and 



302 BALZAC'S WORKS 

had been returned to the stable at noon bj the postilion of 
the royal postal service. 

"No matter," said la Peyrade to himself, "I am sure now 
that she has not left Paris, and that she is not fleeing from 
me. She very likely invented this journey to get rid of the 
Thuilliers. Fool that I am, there must be a letter for me at 
home that will clear up the whole matter!" 

Arrived at the Rue Saint-Dominique-d'Enfer, he re- 
ceived a letter stamped Paris from the porter. Dashing up 
the stairs at a bound, the love-lorn Provencal indulged in 
the boyish trick of locking himself in his room before open- 
ing the letter. After breaking the seal with trembling 
fingers, he read the following: 

"Dear Sir— I am disappearing forever, because my part 
is played out. I owe you thanks for having rendered it 
both agreeable and easy. After making you quarrel with 
the Thuilliers and the Collevilles, who are now fully aware 
of your true feelings toward them, and after carefully ex- 
posing to them, in a manner most irritating to their middle 
class pride, the decidedly annoying details of your abrupt 
and ruthless determination to break with them — having ac- 
complished this, I am proud and happy to have done you 
a signal service. The little girl does not love you, and all 
you love in her is the bright eyes of her dowry. I have, 
therefore, saved you both from an intolerable calamity. In 
exchange for your intended, whom you threw over so 
badly, a charming bride is awaiting you. She is richer 
and more beautiful than Mademoiselle Colleville, and, 
speaking of myself, in conclusion, freer than 
"Your very unworthy servant, 

"Torn a de Godollo. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 303 

"P.S. — For further information, apply without delay to 
Monsieur du Portail, private gentleman, Rue Honore Chev- 
alier, near the Rue Cassette, Saint-Sulpice district, where 
you are expected." 

After reading this letter, the advocate of the poor put 
his head between his hands. He saw nothing, heard noth- 
ing, thought nothing. He was crushed. 

La Peyrade required several days to recover from the 
sledge-hammer blow which had felled him. The shock, 
indeed, was terrible. Coming out of a golden dream, which 
showed him the future in such a smiling perspective, he 
found himself deceived in a manner most mortifying to his 
self-conceit and to his pretensions to profundity and clever- 
ness. He was irretrievably cut off from the Thuilliers; 
loaded with a debt of twenty-five thousand francs, payable 
at a distant date, to be sure; pledged to refund to Brigitte 
the sum of ten thousand francs — a debt which respect for 
his dignity urged him ^to liquidate at the earliest possible 
moment; finally — and this capped the climax of his humilia- 
tion and disgust — he was obliged to acknowledge himself 
not thoroughly cured of the foolish passion he had felt for 
the woman who was the cause of the great disaster, and the 
instrument of his ruin. Now, either this. Delilah was a very 
great lady, high enough placed to allow herself the most 
compromising amusements, and in that case she would have 
waived the role of a coquette in a comedy in which he him- 
self had played the fool; or else she was an adventuress of 
noble descent, in the pay of this du Portail, and acting as 
his secret agent in the matrimonial intrigue. So that the 
judgment to be pronounced upon the dangerous siren would 
stamp her a woman of evil life or wicked heart. 



304 BALZAC'S WORKS 

But put yourself in the place of this child of Provence, 
with his hot blood and fiery brain, who for the first time in 
his life found himself face to face with love clad in jewels 
and lace, and who believed he was quaffing the tender passion 
from a cup of fine gold. As, after awakening, an impres- 
sion remains of your disquieting dream, so la Peyrade, still 
under the ban of a thing that had never been but a shadow, 
needed the support of all his moral energy to efface the 
picture of the perfidious Hungarian. It would be truer to 
say that he never ceased thinking of her, but he carefully 
wrapped up his intense desire to succeed in finding her 
again in a laudable pretext, which he labelled "curiosity." 
Under cover of it, he achieved the following remarkable 
and ingenious deductions: 

"Cerizet spoke to me about a rich heiress. In her letter, 
the Countess points out that the whole intrigue she. entangled 
me into was to lead up to a rich marriage. Rich marriages 
that are thrown at people's head are not so plentiful as that 
the same chance should be offered /ne twice within a few 
weeks. Therefore, the match proposed by Cerizet and that 
mentioned in the Countess's letter regards the same mad 
woman whom I am so strangely being pressed to marry. 
Therefore, Cerizet, being in the plot, must be acquainted 
with the Countess. . Therefore, I shall be put on her trace 
by him. Anyhow, I shall gain information about the com- 
plicated manoeuvres of which I am the central object. Very 
evidently, a family which to reach their ends can dress their 
puppets in such fine clothes must have some position and 
importance. Therefore, I must see Cerizet." 

It was about two o'clock when la Peyrade entered the 
premises of the magistrate's court of the twelfth district. 
Without stopping in the waiting-room, he pushed on into 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 305 

another room, next to the clerk of the court's office. He 
found Cerizet writing at a shabby desk of black wood. As 
la Peyrade entered, the copyist gave him a fierce look, and, 
without rising from his seat, grunted — "Oh, it is you. Mas- 
ter la Peyrade. Well, what is this you have been doing to 
your friend Thuillier ?" asked Cerizet. 

"How are you?" asked la Peyrade, in a tone at once 
firm and friendly. 

"I," answered Cerizet — "I am still rowing on the bench 
in my galley; and, to continue the nautical metaphor. I 
will ask what wind brings you here ? Might it by chance 
be the wind of adversity?" 

Without answering, the barrister took a chair near the 
questioner, and presently said gravely — "My dear fellow, 
we have something to talk about." 

"It seems," said the venomous copyist, "that the Thuil- 
liers have cooled off astonishingly since the pamphlet was 
seized." 

"The Thuilliers arc ingrates," answered la Peyrade, 
"and I have done with them." 

"You may call it a rupture or a farewell," said Cerizet, 
"their door is none the less closed to you, and, according 
to what Dutocq lias told me, Brigitte speaks of you in a 
manner no less than contemptuous. There, you see, my 
friend, what comes of trying to manage one's affairs all 
alone; complications happen, and there is no one to fill up 
the holes. If you had got me the lease, I should have been 
acquainted with the Thuilliers, Dutocq would not, have 
abandoned you, and we should have steered you gently 
into port." 

"What if I do not want to be steered into port?" ex- 
claimed the barrister with some acidity. "I tell you that I 



306 BALZAC'S WORKS 

have had enough of the Thuilliers, that I took the first step 
in breaking off the connection, that I told them to get out 
of my light, and if Dutocq has told you anything else, you 
may tell Datocq that he is a liar! Is that plain? It seems 
so to me." 

"Take care!" said Oe>izet, "you are talking about my 
master, and in his own lair!" 

"Enough of that. I have come to see you about serious 
matters. Be kind enough to let the Thuilliers and their 
friends alone, and listen to me." 

"Go on," said Cerizet, laying down his pen, which in 
the meanwhile had been scurrying over the official sheet, "I 
am all ears." 

"Not long ago," began la Peyrade, "you spoke to me of 
a girl I was to marry. She was of age; she was rich, and 
slightly touched with hysteria, as you said euphemisti- 
cally." 

"Oh!" exclaimed the usurer, "I was expecting this! 
You have had lots of trouble in coming to the point!" 

"In projoiing this heiress to me," asked la Peyrade, 
"what was your idea?" 

"Why, to throw an excellent bargain in your way, 
which you had only to stoop for. I was formally commis- 
sioned with making you the proposal, and there was no 
brokerage in it; I should have relied entirely on your 
generosity." 

"But you were not alone in receiving a mandate to 
negotiate with me. There was also a woman similarly 
employed." 

"A woman?" said Cerizet, in the most natural tone of 
voice. "Not that I know of." 

"Yes, a stranger, rather young and pretty, whom you 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 307 

must have met in the girl's family. She seemed much 
devoted to her." 

"Never has there been any question of a woman in 
this negotiation. I had every right to believe that I had 
exclusive charge of it." 

"What?" asked la Peyrade, fixing a searching eye on 
Dutocq's copyist, "you have never heard of the Countess 
Torna de Godollo?" 

"Never in all the days of my life! This is the first time 
I have ever heard her name!" 

"Well, then, there must be another match in the wind, 
for this woman, after a great many preliminaries, which 
would take too long to relate, formally offered me a young 
person much richer than Mademoiselle Colleville." 

"And is she of age, and hysterical ?" asked Cerizet. 

"No, the proposal was not embellished with these acces- 
sories. But there is another detail, which perhaps may put 
you on the scent. Madame de Godollo requested me, in 
case I wanted to follow the thing up, to see Monsieur du 
Portail, a private gentleman." 

"Sue Honors-Chevalier?" 

"Exactly." 

"Very well. It is the same marriage being proposed 
from two different sides. But it is strange that I was not 
told I had an assistant." 

"So that," said la Peyrade, "not only had you never an 
idea of the Countess's interference, but you do not know 
her, and you can give me no information about her?" 

"For the present I cannot," answered Cerizet. "But 
I might make inquiries, for these proceedings seem to me 
rather cavalier. This employment of two agents, by the 
way, proves how desirable you are to the family." 



308 BALZAC'S WORKS 

At this moment, the door was cautiously opened, a 
female head peered in, and a voice, at once recognized 
by la Peyrade, addressed the clerk of the court's copyist. 

"Oh, excuse me, Monsieur is busy. Might I say a word 
to Monsieur when he is disengaged?" 

Cerizet, who was as quick with his eye as he was with 
his hand, noticed this: His chair being so placed that his 
face was in view of the new-comer, la Peyrade, as soon as 
he heard her honeyed drawl, had quickly turned his head 
away from her, so as not to show his face. Instead, there- 
fore, of being rudely sent about her business, as happened 
to most people who applied to this extremely curt and dis- 
obliging copying clerk — "Walk, walk in, Madame Lam- 
bert!" the discreet visitor was welcomed, "you would have 
to wait too long!" 

"Ah, Monsieur! the advocate of the poor!" exclaimed 
his creditor, whom the reader has no doubt recognized. 
"How happy I am to meet Monsieur. I had been to his 
house several times, to ask if he had had time to look after 
my little affair." 

"Yes," said la Peyrade, "of late I have been called 
away from my office very often, but everything is in order, 
and has been put before the secretary." 

"Oh, how good Monsieur is," said the pietist, clasping 
her hands. 

"Then, you have business with Madame Lambert?" said 
Cerizet. "You had not mentioned it to me. Are you 
Father Picot's adviser?" 

"No, unfortunately he is not," answered the pietist. 
"My master refuses to take advice from anybody, he is 
such an obstinate man, so self-willed! But, good sir, is it 
true that the family council is to meet again?" 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 309 

"Certainly," replied Cerizet, "and not later than to- 
morrow." 

"But, Monsieur, since the gentlemen of the court decided 
that the family was not in the right — " 

"Yes," interrupted the copyist, "both the lower court 
and the higher court threw the case out, at the instance of 
the relations, who pleaded your master was insane. But the 
affair is to be taken up in a different way, and trustees are 
to be appointed for the management of the old man's prop- 
erty. That is what the family council is to assemble for 
to-morrow, and I think this time Father Picot will be put 
in leading-strings. There are some very serious accusations; 
it may do to make the hen lay eggs, but as for plucking 
it into the bargain — !" 

"What, Monsieur surely does not believe — " said the 
pietist, raising her clasped hands to her chin. 

"I believe nothing," said Cerizet. "I have not been 
called upon to pronounce judgment, but the relations 
affirm that you have embezzled considerable amounts, and 
that you have made investments which must be inquired 

into. 

"Good heavens!" said the woman, "let them inquire! 
I have not a deed of property, not a share, not a banknote, 
not the slightest security in my possession." 

"Oil, but," said Cerizet, looking at la Peyrade out of 
the corner of his eye, "there are always obliging friends 
who help one. Well, it is no affair of mine; every one must 
look after his own business. But what was it you wanted 
to say to me?" 

"I wanted to ask you, sir, to ask his worship the clerk 
of the court to speak for us to his honor the justice of the 
peace. The vicar of Saint-Jacques is to speak for us, too. 



310 BALZAC'S WORKS 

The poor man," she added weeping, "will die if they go 
on tormenting him." 

"I cannot conceal from you," said Cerizet, "that the 
judge is not favorably disposed; you know he refused to 
see you the other day. As for my master and myself, we 
cannot do much. Besides, you see, my dear lady, you are 
not liberal enough." 

"You asked me if I had any little savings invested. I 
cannot tell you that I have, when everything has gone into 
that poor Monsieur Picot's housekeeping expenses, and 
I — I — I — am accu — accused of — ^of — of robbing him!" 

Madame Lambert was now sobbing dolefully. 

"It is my opinion," said Cerizet, "that you are making 
yourself out poorer than you really are, and if our friend 
la Peyrade, who seems to possess your confidence, were 
not tongue-tied by the strict rules of his profession — " 

"I?" said la Peyrade hastily, lt I know nothing of ma- 
dame's affairs. She asked me to draw up a memorial, in 
a matter that is neither le°;al nor financial." 

"Ah, that is it then," said Cerizet. "Madame went to 
see you about the memorial the day Dutocq met her there; 
you know, the day after our famous dinner at the Rocher 
de Cancale, where you were such a noble Roman." With- 
out seeming to attach any importance to the reminiscence, 
he continued, "Well, my dear Madame Lambert, I will ask 
my master to speak to the judge, and if I find an opportu- 
nity, I will speak to him myself. But I warn you, he is not 
friendly to you." 

Madame Lambert withdrew with effusive bows and pro- 
testations of gratitude. When she had gone, la Peyrade 
said — "You do not seem to believe that this woman came 
to me to have a memorial drawn up. Nothing is truer, 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 311 

however. She has the reputation of being a very good 
woman in the street where she lives. A little old man, 
whom she is alleged to have cheated — according to infor- 
mation which has reached me — actually lives by her care 
and devotion. Consequently, the good woman has been 
told to make application for one of the Montyon prizes, 
and it is her claims to that distinction which she asked 
me to sum up and set forth." 

"To be sure, those Montyon prizes! That is an idea! 
And we have been wrong to neglect them — especially my- 
self, who am the banker of the poor, as you are their advo- 
cate. As for your client, she ought to be glad that Father 
Picot's relations are not members of the Academy, for the 
prize for good conduct they would have bestowed upon her 
is to be got in the police court. But to come back to our 
own business, I was going to say that, after all your twisting 
and turning, you are no better off than you were before, 
and I strongly advise you, as your Countess did, to go and 
see du Portail." 

"What sort of a man is he?" 

"A little old gentleman, as sly as the devil. But go, 
nevertheless, it will cost you nothing to look at him." 

"Yes, I may possibly go, but tirst 1 want you to tell me 
what you know about this Countess de Grodollo." 

"What does the Countess matter to you? She is only 
a supernumerary in the play." 

"Oh, 1 have my reasons," said the barrister. "Two or 
three days hence you will know all about her. I shall see 
you again then." 

"My dear boy," said Cerizet, "you seem to be dallying 
by the roadside. Are we by any chance in love with the 
fair agent?" 



312 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"What a devil of a man," thought the barrister, "he 
guesses at everything, and there is no possibility of conceal- 
ing anything from him. — No," resumed la Peyrade aloud, 
"I am not in love—quite the reverse, I am on my guard. 
I acknowledge I am only feeling my way in this match with 
the maniac; for, before committing myself, I want to know 
exactly what I am going into. So do not play any of your 
games, such as providing particulars about the Countess 
Torna de Grodollo from your own imagination. I warn you 
that I have the means of verifying your report, and if I see 
you are trying to play me false, I shall bid your du Portail 
good-day at once." 

Downstairs, la Peyrade was accosted by Madame Lam- 
bert, who had been waiting for him. 

"I hope, sir," said the pietist unctuously, "that you do 
not believe all the horrible things Monsieur Cerizet said ? 
And of course you know that I inherited my money from 
my uncle in England." 

"Quite so," said la Peyrade, "but you understand that 
with all these rumors that your master's relations are 
sending about the good conduct prize is very much im- 
perilled." 

"If it is God's will that I am not to have it—" 

"You must also see how important it is for you to keep 
silent about the service I did you. At the very first hint 
of indiscretion, as I told you, the money will be returned 
to you without further ado." 

"Monsieur need have no fear." 

"Very well, then, good-by, my dear woman," said la 
Peyrade, in a patronizing tone. 

As he was leaving her a nasal voice called out from 
a window in the stairway — "Madame Lambert!" 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 813 

It was CeVizet, who was suspicious of a meeting, and had 
come to make sure of it. 

"Madame Lambert," he repeated, "Monsieur Dutocq 
has come back, and if you want to speak to him now — ?" 

La Peyrade could do nothing to prevent the interview, 
which might seriously endanger the secret of his loan. 

"I am always in bad luck," he said to himself, as he 
went away. "When will it ever end?" 

The instinct of domination was so strong in Brigitte that 
she regarded Madame de Orodollo's exit with inward satis- 
faction. The woman, she felt, was vastly her superior, and 
although this had benefited the arrangement of the house, 
it caused the old maid much uneasiness. And when they 
parted, which they did in the friendliest spirit, and upon a 
plausible excuse from the Countess, Brigitte breathed again. 

Her brother might have experienced similar feelings re- 
garding la Pevrade. But while Madame de Godollo was 
only ornamental, the barrister was useful to the house they 
had quitted almost simultaneously, and so, in a few days' 
time, a dreadful want of the Provencal's wit made itself 
manifest in the political and literary career of his ''dear 
friend." The municipal councillor had been asked to write 
an important report, at short notice. He could not decline 
the honor, which had accrued to him from his reputation 
as an able man, after the publication of his pamphlet, and 
yet stood appalled at his incapacity to fulfil his colleagues? 
official request unaided. 

Fortunately, Rabourdin wanted to make some change in 
his apartment, and he came, as was proper, to consult his 
landlord. Thuillier granted what was asked with eager po- 
liteness, and afterward mentioned the report he had been 

commissioned to draw up, saying he would be glad of his 
(N)— Vol. 16 



314 BALZAC'S WORKS 

tenant's ideas on the subject. Rabourdin, at home on all 
such questions, at once threw a flood of light on the matter 
by a number of lucid and concise criticisms. He was one 
of those people to whom the intellectual grasp of their hear- 
ers is a matter of indifference. Whether a stupid or a 
clever person be the listener, either gives them an excite- 
ment to think aloud, and offers almost the same stimulus. 
When he had done, Eabourdin saw that Thuillier had not 
understood, but he had taken pleasure in his own elo- 
quence, and was otherwise grateful to his landlord for 
having so speedily complied with his request. Before 
leaving, he said he remembered having some notes on 
the subject among his papers, and the same evening, in 
fact, sent Thuillier a bulky manuscript. 

The councillor spent the night delving into this valuable 
store of information, and ultimately extracted more than 
enough to furnish a creditable essay, even though he was a 
clumsy pirate. In the council, two days after, the report 
was warmly praised, and Thuillier came home radiant over 
the congratulations tendered him. The event was a land- 
mark in his life, for in his old age he still spoke of "the 
report he had the honor of submitting to the general council 
of the Seine." But from that day forth la Peyrade sank in 
his estimation ; he perceived that he could do without the 
Provencal, and his expectation of emancipation was accom- 
panied by another pleasure. 

A parliamentary crisis was impending, and this seemed 
to the ministry an opportunity of depriving their adver- 
saries of a fertile excuse for hostility, by relaxing the 
severe regulations concerning the press for some time in 
operation. Included in this sort of hypocritical amnesty, 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 315 

Thuillier one morning received a letter from tiie lawyer 
whom he had employed instead of la Peyrade, which con- 
tained the announcement that trie court had dismissed the 
charge, and had ordered the restitution of the pamphlets. 

Then Dutocq's prophecy came true. Relieved of this 
load, Thuillier played the braggart, and in chorus with 
Brigitte spoke of la Peyrade as an adventurer whom he 
had clothed and fed, who had cheated him out of large 
sums of money, and who had then behaved with the basest 
ingratitude. In fact, Thuillier was glad to count him among 
his acquaintances no longer. 

Ce'rizet, who learned all these particulars from Dutocq, 
would not have failed to repeat them all hot to la Peyrade, 
but the meeting at which the copyist was to bring the 
barrister details about Madame de Godollo did not take 
place. La Peyrade had, in the meantime, become enlight- 
ened in the following manner: 

Perpetually haunted by the thought of the lovely Hun- 
garian, and waiting — or rather not waiting — for the result 
of Cerizet's investigation, he scoured the town in every direc- 
tion, and was to be seen, like the idlest loafers, in all the 
most popular resorts, his heart telling him that he might 
meet the object of his assiduous search. 

One evening, about mid-October, and when the autumn 
weather was, as it often is in Pans, most delightful, the 
Provencal was airing his passion and his melancholy on 
the boulevards, where the life and bustle of summer w ■ 
prevailing. On the Boulevard des Italiens, formerly known 
as the Boulevard de Gand, as he passed by the mixed com- 
pany sitting in front of the Cafe de Paris, la Peyrade 
suddenly felt a tremendous shock: he saw, from alar. Ins 
adored Countess. She was alone, and more showily dfeaeed 



316 BALZAC'S WORKS 

than the place warranted, and the fact of being unescorted; 
beside her sat a white lap dog upon a chair, which one of 
her pretty hands was fondling. After assuring himself that 
he was not mistaken, the barrister was about to rush up to 
the heavenly vision, when he was anticipated by a "lion" 
of the most conquering type. Without throwing away his 
cigar, and without even raising his hat, the handsome 
young man at once accosted the Provencal's ideal woman. 
When she saw la Peyrade turn pale, and disposing himself 
to address her, the siren no doubt took fright, for she got 
up, and grasping the arm of her new companion, said to 
him — "Have you your carriage here, Emile ? This is the 
last night at Mabille, and I should like to go." 

Thus flung at the unhappy Theodose, the name of that 
disreputable place was a blessing in disguise, for it saved him 
from an act of folly — that of speaking to a woman on the 
arm of a quickly accepted knight, a worthless creature on 
whom he had been lavishing the tenderest thoughts only a 
few minutes before. 

"It is not worth the trouble to insult her!" said he to 
himself. 

But as lovers are not easily unhorsed, the Provencal did 
not consider that he knew everything that was to be known. 
Not far from the spot just evacuated by the Hungarian 
another woman was seated, also alone. She was of mature 
age, and wore a hat with very large feathers and a cashmere 
shawl, none the better for wear. Her whole appearance 
suggested a checkered and not too respectable life. La 
Peyrade, therefore, sat down next to this woman, and 
without ceremony asked her — "Do you happen to know, 
Madame, who that lady was who just went away on the 
young gentleman's arm?" 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 317 

"Certainly I do, Monsieur; I know nearly all the ladies 
who come here." 

"And what is her name?" 

4 ' Madame Kormorn. ' ' 

"Is she as impregnable as the fortress whose name she 
bears?" continued the barrister. 

It ma}^ be remembered that during the Hungarian revo- 
lution, the newsmongers and the papers were constantly 
dinning the name of the famous citadel of Kormorn into 
our ears, and la Peyrade knew that an inquiry is always 
most successful when conducted in a light and easy manner. 

"Should you be desiring to make her acquaintance?" 

"I do not know," answered the Provencal. "But she is 
a woman one cannot help thinking of." 

"And a dangerous one too!" went on the matron; "and 
a skinflint, without the least capacity for acknowledging 
substantially things that have been done for her. I know 
what I am talking about. When she came here from Berlin 
six months ago she came to me with very good letters of 
introduction." 

"Eeally?" observed la Peyrade. 

"Yes, I then had a very nice piece of land in the neigh- 
borhood of Ville-d'Avray, with a park, hunting-preserves, 
and fresh- water fishing, and as I was down there all by 
myself, and was not well enough off to keep a country 
house in the right style, several gentlemen and ladies said 
to me: 'Madame Louchard, you ought to give picnic parties 
at your place — ' " 

"Madame Louchard," repeated la Peyrade. "Are you 
any relation to Monsieur Louchard of the commercial 
police ?" 

4 'His wife, sir; but judicially separated. He was a 



318 BALZAC'S WORKS 

horror of a man, who would have liked to make up with 
me well enough, but I can forgive everything except a 
want of respect, and when I tell you that one day he dared 
to raise his hand against me — " 

"Well, then," said la Peyrade, leading the woman back 
to the point, "the picnics began, and Madame de Grodollo — 
I was going to say Madame Kormorn — ■'? 

"Was one of my first guests. She made the acquaint- 
ance of an Italian in my house, a very fine man, a political 
refugee, but of quite a high class. You understand, of 
course, that it did not suit me to have love affairs carried 
on in my house. However, this man was such a true lover, 
and he was so unhappy at not being able to make an im- 
pression on Madame Kormorn, that I at last became inter- 
ested in this affair of the heart, which was a lucrative one 
for the lady, since she got a lot of money out of the Italian. 
Well — would you believe that, being a little pressed, and 
asking her to oblige me with a trifling amount, she refused, 
and left my house, taking her lover away with her, who, I 
must say, has had no reason to be pleased with the 
connection." 

"And what happened to her then?" 

"What happened was that this snake knew every Euro- 
pean language. The woman was clever to the tips of her 
fingers, and even more artful than clever. So much so, 
that, standing in some sort of relation to the police, she 
handed over to the government some of the Italian's corre- 
spondence, which was of a nature to get him expelled from 
the country." 

"And since the Italian's disappearance from the scene, 
Madame Kormorn — ?" 

"Since then she has had several affairs and has wrecked 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 319 

a few fortunes. But I thought that she had vanished; for 
more than two months she did not show herself at all, when, 
the other day, she came out again more splendid than ever. 
For my part, I do not advise Monsieur to run after her. 
But Monsieur looks like a Southerner, and is probably very 
ardent, and so perhaps all I have told him will only go to 
his head. It cannot be denied that she is a fascinating 
woman — oh, yes, very fascinating! She used to like me 
very much, though we did not part good friends, and just 
now she was asking for my address, saying that she would 
come and visit me." 

"Thank you, Madame. I will think it over," said la 
Peyrade, rising and bowing. The bow was returned with 
stern coldness. His abrupt departure indicated that he did 
not mean business. 

Seeing the barrister pursuing his inquiry in a sort of 
mirthful spirit, one might have believed him suddenly 
cured, but his superficial calmness and self-possession was 
but the lull before the storm. On leaving Madame Lou- 
chard, la Peyrade threw himself into a cab, and there in a 
flood of tears, similar to that witnessed by Madame Colle- 
ville, on the day that he had thought himself cheated in the 
matter of the bidding, he first gave vent to his grief. The 
siege of the Thuilliers, so patiently prepared at the cost of 
such severe sacrifices, had been rendered ineffective; Plavie 
was completely avenged for the odious comedy he had been 
playing with her; his affairs were in a worse state now than 
when Cerizet and Dutocq had shut him up, like a devour- 
ing wolf, in the fold, from which he had allowed himself to 
be driven like a silly sheep; his plan of retribution against 
the woman who had so easily circumvented his wit had 
collapsed, although the living memory remained of the 



320 BALZAC'S WORKS 

seductions to which he had succumbed — such were the 
reflections and emotions of a sleepless, distressful night. 

The next clay, la Peyrade had ceased to think. He was 
the victim of a violent fever, and the symptoms were so 
grave that the doctor took precautions against the brain 
fever that was imminent. Bleeding, leeches, ice on his 
head — this was the pleasant conclusion of the Provencal's 
dream of love. But it must be stated, at once, that the 
physical catastrophe led to a complete moral cure. For 
soon the barrister had no other feeling left for the Hun- 
garian impostor than that of cold contempt, which did not 
even rise to a desire for revenge. 

On his feet once more, and again revising his prospects 
— for he had lost much ground — la Peyrade asked himself 
whether he ought not to attempt reconciliation with the 
Thuilliers, or whether he ought to cast in his lot with the 
mad rich girl who had gold, where others had a sound 
brain. But everything that recalled his disastrous cam- 
paign brought forth an invincible repulsion in him, and 
besides, how unsafe to deal with this du Portail, who em- 
ployed such vile instruments in his scope of action! Great 
commotions of the soul are like storms that purify the atmos- 
phere. They have a moralizing effect, and lead to strong 
and worthy resolutions. La Peyrade, as the result of the 
cruel deception he had undergone, experienced a revulsion 
of feeling and of ideas. He examined himself as to the life 
of mean and base intrigue he had been leading for a year. 
Was there no better, no higher employment open to the un- 
usual faculties he was conscious of possessing ? He might 
go to the bar, like any one else, and this was a straight and 
broad road to the best satisfaction of legitimate ambition. 
In order to establish and maintain himself in the Thuillier 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 321 

household, and to marry the daughter of a clarinetist and a 
coquette, he had wasted more wit, more art, and more dis- 
honesty than enough to have launched him in a career. 

"Enough," said he to himself, "of such as Dutocq and 
CeVizet, enough of the nauseating atmosphere of Minards, 
Phellions, and Collevilles. Let me live in the real Paris, 
and shake off this urbane reproduction of provincial life, 
far more absurd and petty than the provinces themselves. 
They, at least, in spite of their narrowness, have an individu- 
ality of their own, and a certain dignity. The people there 
are frankly themselves, the opposite of the Parisians, but 
these people are mere shams." He therefore went to see 
two or three lawyers who had offered to introduce him to 
the courts by means of a few small cases. He accepted 
those directly offered him, and three weeks after his rapture 
with the Thuilliers he was no longer the advocate of the 
poor, but a regular pleading barrister. He had already 
acted in several cases with success, when one morning he 
was much disturbed by a letter. 

The president of the association of barristers requested 
him to call at his office, at court, during the day, on a 
matter of importance. The Provencal at once thought of 
the Madeleine house. If that transaction got to the ears 
of the Court of Discipline, it would render him amenable to 
citation before that tribunal, whose severity was well known. 
Now, this du Portail, on whom he had not yet called, dis- 
regarding the conditional promise made to CeVizet, might 
have learned the whole history of the bidding from Curi/A-t 
himself. This man, judging from the performance with the 
Hungarian, thought all weapons allowable. In his iieroe de- 
termination to compass the marriage of the demented girl, 
might not this unscrupulous man have jumped at the oppor- 



322 BALZAC'S WORKS 

tunity of informing against him ? Seeing him embarked 
courageously and not unsuccessfully on the career in which 
he might achieve independence while making his fortune, had 
not his persecutor probably designed to spoil that career ? 
While breakfasting with a bad appetite, the Provencal was 
indulging in such unpleasant speculations as these, when 
Madame Coffinet, who had the privilege of doing his house- 
keeping, came in, and asked him if he would see Monsieur 
Etienne Lousteau. 

A moment later he was confronted by the visitor, whose 
face looked familiar to him. 

"Sir," said the new-comer to la Peyrade, "I had the 
honor of lunching with you not long ago at V ^four's. I 
was invited to that party, which suffered an unpleas- 
ant interruption on account of Monsieur Thuillier, your 
friend." 

"Ah, indeed," said the barrister, giving him a chair, 
"then you belong to the staff of a newspaper ?" 

"I am editor-in-chief of the 'Echo de la Bievre,' and it 
is precisely about my paper that I wish to speak to you. 
Do you know what has happened?" 

"No," answered la Peyrade. 

"What? You do not know that yesterday the ministry 
met with a tremendous reverse, and instead of resigning, 
as was to be expected, are dissolving the Chamber, and 
appealing to the country?" 

"I knew nothing about all that, not having read the 
morning paper .yet." 

"Now, you see, all parliamentary ambitions are taking 
the field, and if I am properly informed, Monsieur Thuillier, 
already a member of the general council, intends to stand as 
deputy for the twelfth district." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 323 



ii- 



l Yes," said la Peyrade, "he seems to have some such 
project in view." 

"Very well, sir, I wish to put an instrument into his 
hands whose efficacy you will recognize, I think. The 
'Echo de la Bievre,' a technical journal, may have decisive 
influence on the election in the district." 

"And would you be disposed to offer your support for 
Thuillier's candidature?" 

"More than that, I want to propose to Monsieur Thuillier 
that he take over the organ altogether. As its owner, he 
can mold it to his own purposes." 

"First of all," asked la Peyrade, "what is the position 
of your paper ? As a technical journal, as you said it was 
just now, it is a paper I have rarely seen — in fact, I should 
not know it at all, had it not been for the able article you 
wrote in defence of Thuillier, at the time of the seizure of 
his pamphlet." 

Etienne Lousteau bowed his thanks for the compliment, 
and said — "Our position is an excellent one, and we can let 
you have the paper on reasonable terms, since we are on the 
point of suspending publication." 

"How strange — a prosperous newspaper!" 

"Allow me — it is quite natural. The founders, who are 
all representatives of the great tanning industry, first issued 
this paper with a well-defined object. That object has been 
reached, and the 'Echo de la Bievre' has, therefore, become 
an effect without a cause. There is no further reason for 
its existence. The shareholders, who do not depend upon 
trifling profits, therefore, think it expedient to liquidate." 

"But does this paper pay expenses?" 

"That," replied Lousteau, "is a matter that has never 
concerned us in the least. The number of subscribers was 



324 BALZAC'S WORKS 

nothing to us, for the mainspring of the enterprise was 
direct influence exercised on the Department of Commerce, 
to secure a higher import duty on foreign leather." 

"But what value," said la Peyrade, "do you put on a 
publication that has few, if any, subscribers, that does not 
make expenses, and that up to uow has pursued an entirely 
different policy from that to be taken up henceforth ?" 

"Before answering," rejoined Lousteau, "let me ask you 
another question. Are you prepared to buy ?" 

"That depends," said the barrister. "Of course I must 
see Thuillier first, but I can tell you at once that he is not 
at all versed in journalistic affairs, and that according to his 
middle class ideas the ownership of a newspaper is some- 
thing quite ruinous. It would therefore be quite useless 
on your part to state a large figure, which would only 
frighten him." 

"No, we shall be most reasonable, as I said. I have 
been left a free hand regarding the money question. Only 
you will please observe that we already have several offers, 
and that in giving Monsieur Thuillier the preference we are 
extending him a very special compliment. When may I 
hope for your answer?" 

"To-morrow, very likely. May I have the pleasure of 
calling on you to-morrow ?" 

"No," said Lousteau rising, "I shall come here to-mor- 
row, at the same hour, if that will suit you." 

"Thank you," said la Peyrade, and showed his guest to 
the door, believing him a man endowed with more conceit 
than ability. 

From the manner in which the Provencal had adopted 
the notion of constituting himself an envoy to Thuillier, the 
reader will gather that a sharp reaction had occurred in him. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 325 

Even if he had not been in receipt of the alarming letter 
from the president of the barristers' association, the new 
phase of Thuillier's parliamentary ambitions would have 
opened fresh fields of thought to la Peyrade. It looked as 
though his "dear friend" were to come back to him, tied 
hand and foot by his infatuation with legislatorial functions. 
Was this not the time — though proceeding cautiously, in 
view of former experiences — to renew his suit for the hand 
of Celeste ? Far from being a hindrance to any of the 
good resolutions springing from his disappointment in love 
and his brain fever, this marriage would, on the contrary, 
assure their continuance and their success; but if, as it was 
to be feared, one of those thunderbolts descended upon hiin 
from the Court of Discipline, which annihilate a man's 
career, then it was only natural to go for a remedy to the 
source of the evil, that was to say, to the Thuilliers, the 
authors and the abettors of his downfall. It was his instinct 
and his right to demand shelter and substance from them. 

Kevolving in his head such considerations as these, la 
Peyrade repaired to the court, to wait on the president of 
the association. 

He had guessed aright. In a very explicit and very 
circumstantial statement, the whole of his conduct in the 
affair of the house had been brought to the attention of his 
fellow-barristers, and being ready to acknowledge that an 
anonymous accusation could only be looked upon with 
extreme distrust, the high official stated his willingness to 
listen to the alleged culprit's defence. La Peyrade did not 
venture to take refuge in a system of absolute denial. The 
hand that had dealt the blow must, he imagined, be too 
strong and too skilful not to have proofs to present. But 
while acknowledging the charge to be substantially genuine, 



326 BALZAC'S WORKS 

he tried to lend it a favorable interpretation. He saw, how- 
ever, that he had not made out a good case for himself, since 
this was what the president answered — "Directly after the 
vacation season I will report to the association upon ttie 
accusation against you and upon your counter-arguments." 

Thus dismissed, la Peyrade felt his future at the bar 
badly threatened, but a respite had been obtained, and he 
would have time, if the worst came to the worst, to find a 
place where to lay his head. He went to put on his gown, 
which he still had the right to wear, and betook himself to 
the fifth chamber, where he had a case to defend. 

On his way out of court he saw his Thuillier from afar, 
who, as soon as he was within reach, called out to him — 
"Hello, Th^odose! So you are practicing in the courts 
now!" 

"Well, it seems to me," answered la Peyrade, "that as 
for barristers in the courts, they are much the same as the 
Turks in Constantinople, where, I have been told, there 
are a good many. It is rather yourself whom one would 
hardly expect to find here." 

"Not at all," said Thuillier. "I have come in connec- 
tion with that infernal pamphlet. I was summoned," he 
went on, with apparent embarrassment, "to pay some regis- 
tration fee or other. How is a man to make out their 
wretched scrawls ? ' ' 

"And they hit upon the very day for this summons when 
the 'Moniteur,' announcing the dissolution of the Chamber, 
mentioned you as a candidate for the twelfth district." 

"Why not? What relation to my candidature can the 
registration possibly have?" 

"I will tell you," answered la Peyrade dryly, "how they 
are related. The judiciary is an essentially amiable and 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 327 

obliging body. 'Here,' it said to itself, 'is this good Mon- 
sieur Thuillier, a candidate for the Chamber; he mast be a 
little bit sorry for the strained situation between himself 
and his former friend, Monsieur de la Peyrade, with whom 
he now regrets ever having quarrelled. He must be got out 
of the difficulty. We will summon him to pay a fee he 
does not owe, and he will come to court, where la Peyrade 
is every day. In this way he will meet him unintentionally, 
and his pride will be saved an unpleasant humiliation.' ' 

"Well, you are all wrong about that," answered Thuil- 
lier, breaking the ice. "To show you how little calculation 
there is in this, I must tell you that I have just come from 
your house. The porter's wife sent me here. That's the 
whole story!" 

"I am glad to hear that," said la Peyrade. "Honest 
confession is good for the soul; one likes to play with 
people who lay their cards on the table. What was it you 
wanted to speak to me of ? Was it your election ? I have 
been thinking about that already." 

"Have you indeed? And how?" 

"Look here," answered la Peyrade, fumbling under his 
gown, and drawing a paper from his pocket; "this is what I 
scribbled off just now, while the barrister on the other side 
was making his eloquent harangue." 

"What is it?" asked Thuillier. 

"Here, take it. You will see." 

And Thuillier read the following: 

ESTIMATE FOR A NEWSPAPER 

QUARTO SIZE, THIRTY FRANCS A YEAR 

On the basis of an edition of live thousand copies, the 
monthly cost would be: 



828 BALZAC'S WORKS 

Paper — flve reams at 12 francs 1,860 francs 

Typesetting 2,400 " 

Printing 450 " 

Editor 250 * 

Clerk 100 " 

Manager and Cashier 200 

Mailing Department 100 

Women Folders 120 

Office Boy 80 

Wrappers and Office Expenses 150 

Rent 100 

Postage 7,500 " 

Editing and News Gathering 1,800 

Total per month 15,110 francs 

" " year 181,320 






M 
4< 



(< 



"Do you want to start a newspaper?" asked Thuillier, 
aghast. 

"I," said la Peyrade — "I do not want anything. It is 
for you to say whether you want to be deputy or not. We 
have a name for a paper; the editorial writers will be you 
and myself, and a few young fellows available in Paris by 
the shovelful; and I have a manager in view." 

"What is the name to be?" 

"The 'Echo de la Bievre.' " 

"But there is a paper of that name already!" 

"Just why I advise you to go into this business. Do 
you think I would be insane enough to want you to start a 
new paper? The 'Echo de la Bievre'! A name to conjure 
with in an election for the Chamber in the twelfth district! 
You have only to say the word, and the magic wand is 
yours!" 

"How so?" asked Thuillier, curious. 

"Why, all you have to do is to buy it. You can have 
it for a song." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 329 

"But," said Thuillier, gloomily, ''there is the purchase 
money that you have not considered. ' ' 

"You worry over trifles," said la Peyrade, shrugging his 
shoulders. "There are very different problems to be solved." 

"What do you mean?" 

"Good heavens! Do you suppose that, after what has 
passed between us, I am quietly going to harness myself to 
your election chariot without knowing exactly what I am 
to get by it." 

"But," said Thuillier, rather astonished, "I thought 
friendship consisted in the exchange of services." 

"Quite so. But when the exchange comes from one side 
all the time, and nothing ever comes from the other, friend- 
ship grows tired of this sort of distribution of labor, and asks 
for something better balanced. It must be Celeste's husband 
who is to help you, and not Theodose de la Peyrade." 

"At the fastest rate of going, as Brigitte observed, it 
would take about a fortnight to arrange for the wedding, 
and just fancy grounding arms for two weeks out of the 
eight before election!" 

"The day after to-morrow," answered the Provencal, 
"our names could be posted at the mayor's office, and in 
the interval of publishing the banns something might be 
done. That is not, of course, a step from which one cannot 
recede; but it is at any rate a moral pledge, and a great 
gain in the right direction. Your notary can draw up the 
marriage contract. If you conclude to buy this paper, as 
you will not wish to keep an idle horse in your stable, I am 
not afraid of your playing me false, since without me you 
would find your gun too difficult to handle." 

"But supposing, my dear fellow," objected Thuillier, 
"all this should prove too troublesome aud expensive?' 1 



330 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"It is hardly necessary for me to say that you must 
judge of the conditions of sale yourself; I have no more 
wish than you to buy a pig in a poke. To-morrow, if you 
give me your authority, I will talk to the owner on your 
behalf, and of course you may feel confident that I shall 
represent your interests as if they were my own." 

"Very well, my dear boy, go ahead!" 

"And when the paper is finally purchased, the day will 
be fixed for the signing of the contract?" 

"Whenever you like; but you agree to use all your in- 
fluence in my cause?" 

"As completely as I would for myself; and this is not 
an empty boast, for I have received hints as to a possible 
candidature of my own, and if I were revengeful — " 

"I acknowledge," said Thuillier humbly, "that you 
would make a better deputy than I would. But you are 
not of the proper age yet, it seems to me." 

"There is a better reason than that," said la Peyrade — 
"you are my friend. I find you now what you were before, 
and I shall keep the promise that I gave you. I should like 
it to be said of me: 'He made deputies, but never would be 
one.' I must leave you now, as I have something to attend 
to. Come and see me to-morrow at noon : I shall have news 
for you." 

The purchase price was extraordinarily small. A five- 
hundred-franc note, for which Lousteau never particularly 
accounted to the shareholders, put the ownership, the title- 
deed, the plant, and the goodwill of the paper into Thuil- 
lier's hands, who at once began its reorganization. 

While this reorganization was in process, one morning 
Ce>izet betook himself to du Portail, with whom la Pevr.-ide 
was now more than ever averse to have dealings. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 331 

"Well," said the little old man to the banker of the 
poor, "is the result known yet of the message to the presi- 
dent of the barristers' association ? Have the lawyers got 
wind of it yet?" 

"Pooh!" said Ce'rizet, who through frequent intercourse 
with the mysterious man of the Rue Honord-Chevalier was 
on a more or less familiar footing with him, "that's of no 
consequence! The eel is slipping through our fingers 
again; neither gentle nor violent measures affect this devil 
of a fellow! Even if he has made a bad impression on the 
president, he is on better terms than ever with his Thuil- 
liers. Utility, as Figaro says, shortens distances. Thuillier 
wanted his assistance for the election in the Saint-Jacques 
district, and so they simply kissed and were friends." 

"And no doubt," remarked Cerizet's interlocutor calmly, 
"the wedding is fixed for an early date." 

"There is something else to be considered first," said 
Cerizet. "That maniac has persuaded Thuillier to buy a 
newspaper, which will swallow up a huge sum. As he will 
want to get his money back, he will stick to the other man. 
It looks as though they would be glued together for all 

eternity." 

"What paper is it?" asked du Portail, carelessly. 

"A rag called the 'Echo de la Bievre,' ' answered the 
usurer disdainfully, "which a destitute old journalist man- 
aged to foist on the curriers of that part of the town, mak- 
ing it their organ. From a literary and political point of 
view the sheet is worthless, but Thuillier thinks he has 
made a master stroke." 

"Well, for the purposes of a local election, it is not a 
badly chosen instrument. La Peyrade has talent, energy, 
and great mental resources. He may make something of 



332 BALZAC'S WORKS 

this 'Echo.' Under what banner does Sire Thuillier pro- 
pose to march ? ' ' 

"Thuillier is an oyster; he has no opinions at all. Until 
the publication of his pamphlet, he was a fanatical conserv- 
ative, like all of the middle class. Bat since the seizure 
he has gone over to the opposition. His first stage was 
probably the left centre; but if, at election time, the wind 
blows from another quarter, he will no doubt go all the 
way to the extreme left. Self-interest is the only measure 
of those people's convictions." 

"Tell me, have you not done newspaper work, you, the 
bold Cerizet?" 

"Yes," replied the other, "I even was at the head of 
one, with la Peyrade. It was an evening paper. A pretty 
trade it was, and we were well paid for it, too!" 

"Indeed. Is there any reason why you should not man- 
age a paper again — with la Peyrade?" 

Cerizet looked at du Portail, amazed. 

"Are you the devil, sir, that nothing escapes your 
knowledge?" 

"Oh, I know a few things. — Bat what is the precise 
state of affairs between yourself and la Peyrade?" 

"The state of affairs is this. Kecollecting my previous 
experience, and knowing of no one else to engage, he came 
to offer me the managership last night." 

"I was not aware of that, but thought it likely. Did 
you accept?" 

"Only conditionally. I asked a little time for reflection. 
I wanted to see what you would say to it." 

"As for me, I think we ought to make the best of a bad 
job. I would rather have you inside the combination than 
outside." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 333 

"Quite so. But there is a difficulty about getting in. 
La Peyrade knows I am in debt, and he will not provide 
the security of thirty-three thousand francs that must be 
entered in my name. I have nothing. Of the twenty-five 
thousand he paid me back two months ago, I have only two 
thousand left. With the rest, I paid my most pressing debts. 

"What! Your liabilities were more than twenty-five 
thousand francs ? ' ' 

"Would a man go into bankruptcy for less?" said Ccri- 
zet, as though propounding an axiom. 

"I see you must have the money,'' said du Portail, an- 
noyed. "But it is a question whether your presence in the 
business is worth that much.' 1 

"Never fear. If I were once settled down with Thuil- 
lier, I should by no means despair of spoiling the pudding 
between him and our barrister. In the management of a 
paper, there are a thousand causes of friction, and by al- 
ways siding with the stupid man against the clever one, I 
shall raise the self-esteem of the first, and hurt the vanity 
of the other, in such a way as to make the situation un- 
endurable to both. But, independently of all this, I think 
I have another good card to play." 

"Out with it, then!" exclaimed du Portail impatiently. 
"You are beating about the bush as though there was some- 
thing to be gained by keeping me in the dark." 

"Kemember," said Ce'rizet, at last coming to the point, 
"that some time ago Dutocq and I were very much puzzled 
at the impertinent way in which la Peyrade suddenly pro- 
duced his twenty-five thousand francs?" 

"Do you mean," asked the old gentleman sharply, 'that. 
you discovered the source of that money? Was there any- 
thing underhand about the transaction?" 



334 BALZAC'S WORKS 

Cerizet then detailed all the circumstances he knew re- 
lating to Madame Lambert, adding that, though he had 
captured the woman in his office at court, he had failed 
to wring a confession from her, although the dear lady's 
behavior largely confirmed Dutocq's suspicions and his own. 

''Madame Lambert, Eue Val-de-Grace, No. 9, care of 
Monsieur Picot, professor of mathematics," repeated du 
Portail after Cerizet, taking down the address. "That 
will do, my dear Monsieur Cerizet. Come and see me 
again to-morrow." 

"But please remember that I must give la Peyrade his 
answer during the day. He is in a great hurry to have 
matters settled." 

"Verj good. You will accept, asking for twenty-four 
hours in which to furnish the security, and if, after I have 
made inquiries, we see it i3 to our interest to retract, you 
will merely have broken your word. You cannot be im- 
prisoned for that." 

Apart from a sort of strange fascination which he exer- 
cised over his agent, du Portail never missed an opportunity 
of reminding him of the dark deed that had led to their 
present connection. 

The next day, upon Cerizet's appearance, du Portail 
began thus — "You guessed right about Madame Lambert. 
Obliged to conceal the existence of her hoard, this woman, 
who at the same time had wanted to hide it at good inter- 
est, took a notion of approaching la Peyrade, whose habits 
of piety commended him to her confidence. The money 
must have been handed over to him without a receipt. In 
what denominations of currency was Dutocq paid?' 

"In nineteen one-thousand-franc notes and twelve of five 
hundred." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 335 

"Exactly so," du Portail went on, "and there now seems 
to be no doubt about it. But now, what use do you pro- 
pose to make of this information in regard to Thuil- 
lier?" 

"I intend to hint that la Peyrade, to whom he is to give 
his goddaughter, is horribly in debt, that he is borrowing 
money surreptitiously from usurers, that to relieve himself 
he would pick the newspaper to the bone, that his embar- 
rassed financial position may come to a climax at any mo- 
ment, and do the worst injury to the candidate supported 
by him in an election." 

"Not at all bad. But you might utilize your discovery 
in a more radical and more conclusive way." 

"Which is?" 

"Is not Thuillier still in a fog as to the seizure of his 
famous pamphlet?" 

"Certainly," answered Cerizet. "La Peyrade was only 
telling me yesterday, wanting to show me how far Thuil- 
lier's childish innocence could go, how he had led him into 
the most absurd error. The good man is thoroughly per- 
suaded that the seizure was made at the instance of Mon- 
sieur Olivier Vinet, a young deputy judge, who had aspired 
to the hand of Mademoiselle Colleville, and had been re- 
fused. It was supposed to be an act of vengeance." 

"Excellent! To-morrow, by way of preparation for 
another version, to emanate from yourself, Thuillier will 
receive from Monsieur Vinet a very strong and emphatic 
denial of his having committed such an abuse of power!" 

"Ah!" said the admiring CeVizet. 

"A further explanation must then be found," continued 
du Portail, "and you will assure Thuillier that he is the 
victim of terrible machinations on the part of the police. 



336 BALZAC'S WORKS 

The police, you know, do nothing else but work machi- 
nations." 

"Of course," rejoined the usurer. "I signed that state- 
ment a hundred times, when I was writing for Eepublican 
newspapers, and when — " 

"You were the bold Cerizet," interrupted du Portail. 
"In this case, the machinations of the police are the fol- 
lowing: The government was much displeased at Thuillier's 
election, without its influence, to the general municipal 
council of the Seine. It resented the fact that an inde- 
pendent and patriotic citizen had carried the election with- 
out any government support whatever. The fact was 
known that this great man was also writing a Treatise on 
the always delicate financial question, on which this dan- 
gerous person was an acknowledged authority. Now, what 
did this habitually corrupt government do? It subven- 
tioned a man reputed to be Thuillier's private adviser, and 
in consideration of twenty-five thousand francs, which is a 
trifle to the police, this insinuating adviser undertook to 
steer two or three sentences into the pamphlet sufficient 
to place the author directly at odds with the public prose- 
cutor. What doubt will be left in Thuillier's mind of 
la Peyrade's guilt when he learns that his friend, who 
had no resources whatever, paid Dutocq, on the nail, just 
that very sum of twenty-five thousand francs?" 

"The deuce!" exclaimed Cerizet, "not a bad idea! Men 
like Thuillier will believe anything they are told about the 
police." 

' 'In view of this, ' ' added du Portail, ' 'Thuillier will scarce- 
ly wish to keep company with such an editor, and would be 
still less anxious to give him his goddaughter for a wife." 

At this moment, du Portail's study door was suddenly 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 337 

opened, and a fair, slender woman, with a countenance of 
angelic sweetness, stepped hastily into the room. In her 
arms lay the" form of an infant in swaddling clothes. 
"There!" said she, "that naughty Katt declared that it 
was not the doctor, but I knew well enough, I did, that 
I had seen him come in! No, doctor," she continued, ad- 
dressing Cerizet, "I am not satisfied with the little one's 
health, not at all; she is very pale, and much thinner. 
I think she must be cutting her teeth." 

Du Portail motioned to Cerizet to enter into the part so 
abruptly thrust upon him, which reminded him of having 
momentarily thought of assuming it once before, in the fa- 
mous Cardinal comedy. "To be sure," he therefore an- 
swered, "the child is teething. They always ail a little 
at that time, but, my dear Madame, there are really no 
alarming symptoms. ' ' 

"Do you think so, doctor," said the mad woman (for the 
reader has no doubt recognized Lydie, du Portail 'b ward). 
"But look at its poor little arms; how they are going to 
waste!" 

And, unpinning the bundle in her arms, she showed 
a parcel of rags, which to the poor creature represented a 
pretty pink-and-white baby. 

"Oh, no! not at all," Cerizet reassured her. "She is a 
little thinner, it is true, but the flesh is firm and the com- 
plexion good." 

"Poor little darling," said Lydie, kissing her idol effu- 
sively, "I really think she is a little better since this morn- 
ing. But what ought I to give her, doctor? She ret uses 
pap, and she does not like broth either." 

"Well, then, you may try some bread and milk. Has 
she a taste for sweet things ?" 

(0)— Vol. 1G 



338 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"Oh, yes," said the lunatic, whose face brightened up, 
"she loves them! But would chocolate be good for her." 

"Certainly, certainly. But no vanilla in it; that is too 
heating." 

"I see," said Lydie, "it must be what they call 'health 
chocolate.' She spoke in the tone of a mother listening 
to a doctor as though he were a divine being. "Uncle," 
she added, turning to du Portail, "do ring for Bruno, 
and send him for a few pounds of chocolate at once." 

"Bruno has just gone out," answered her guardian. 
"But there is no hurry, he will go in the course of the 
day." 

"Look, she is going to sleep," said Cerizet, not sorry 
to put an end to a scene which, despite his callous nature, 
was pathetic to him. 

"So she is," said the insane girl, wrapping up the bun- 
dle and rising, "and I must put her to bed. Good-by, doc- 
tor. It is very kind of you to come so often without being 
sent for. If you only knew how unhappy we poor mothers 
are, and what good a few words do us! Oh, but she is cry- 
ing again." 

"That is natural enough," said Cerizet, "she is deadly 
sleepy; she would be better off in her cradle." 

'I will go and play her the sonata by Beethoven that her 
father liked so much. It is surprising how soothing that is. 
So good-by, doctor," said she, stopping once more on the 
threshold, "good-by, dear doctor," and she kissed her hand 
to him. 

Cerizet was quite overcome. 

"Did I not tell you," sighed du Portail, "she was an 
angel ? Never cross, never a hard word ! Sometimes she 
is melancholy, but always as the result of maternal anxiety. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 339 

It is this which convinces the physicians that if the reality 
took the place of her constant hallucination, her reason 
might return. There, you see, is what that fool of a la 
Peyrade is refusing, and a splendid dowry into the bar- 
gain ! But he shall be persuaded — I will stake my reputa- 
tion on it! Listen," he added, hearing some chords struck 
on the piano, "listen what talent she has! As for lunatics 
of that sort, why there are thousands of sane women inferior 
to them, and only more sensible on the surface." When 
the Beethoven sonata, played with such fine feeling and per- 
fection of artistic shading as to fill the copyist with wonder 
and admiration, had come to a close: 

"I am of your opinion, sir," he said. "La Peyrade is 
rejecting an angel, a treasure, a pearl, and if I were in his 
shoes — but he must be brought round, as you have planned. 
Henceforth, it is not with zeal I shall serve you, but with 
passion, with the blindest devotion." 

As Cerizet was uttering this vow of fidelity on his way 
out of the room, he heard a female voice, which certainly 
was not Lydie's. 

"Is my dear Commandeur in his study," said the voice, 
with a slightly foreign accent. 

"Yes, Madame, but kindly step into the drawing-room, 
Monsieur is not alone. I will go and announce you.' 1 

This time it was the voice of Katt, the old Dutch house- 
keeper. 

"Come, go out this way," said du Portail hastily to 
CeVizet, as he opened a secret door, which took him out 
upon the landing by a dark passage. 

The article introducing the new management of a news- 
paper to the public, "the confession of faith," as it is techni- 



340 BALZAC'S WORKS 

cally styled, is always a laborious and difficult task. In this 
case, besides announcing the general policy of the paper, 
which was necessary to foreshadow Thuillier's candidature, 
the draft of this manifesto, after being revised by la Pey- 
rade, was discussed at length and breadth. Cerizet was 
present at the debate, having, in accordance with du Por- 
tail's instructions, accepted the managership. However, he 
had not yet deposited the security, profiting by the latitude 
usually allowed by new owners. Cunningly fanned by the 
arch-rogue, who began by flattering Thuillier, this discus- 
sion soon grew stormy, and took an acrid tone. But, as by 
agreement, la Peyrade was always to render a final decision 
on all editorial questions, he used his authority to have the 
article printed just as he had written it. Thuillier was in- 
censed at what he called an abuse of power, and the next 
day, while alone with Ce>izet, and pouring his troubles 
into the bosom of the faithful manager, an occasion offered 
itself quite readily at first hand to broach the slanderous 
revelations plotted with the old man of the Rue Honors- 
Chevalier. 

The insinuation was most artfully pointed, and a cleverer 
man than Thuillier would have succumbed to the deception. 
Cerizet pretended to be frightened at having betrayed the 
secret, drawn from him in the fervor of his zeal, and by his 
sympathy commanded by Thuillier's "elevation of mind 
and character, which had struck him from the very first." 
The dandy of the Empire quieted his anxiety, promising 
that he should on no account be involved in any complica- 
tions which his avowal might lead to. Thuillier would be 
supposed to have got the information from another source, 
and if necessary he would let the suspicion rest upon Dutocq. 
Leaving the dart in the wound, Cdrizet went away to make 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 341 

some necessary arrangements for the rinal settlement of his 
security. 

The installing of the "Echo de la Bievre" in the line 
Saint-Dommique-d'Enfer was only at a rudimentary stage, 
since the change was being made in a hurry. The old 
offices were in a house of the meanest appearance, evidently 
not habitable, and in the receipt for the fixings and furni- 
ture, included in the documents of sale, Thuillier met with 
sad disappointments. The inventory in question was con- 
ceived in terms something like these: 

1. Three tables of stained black wood. 

2. Six straw-bottomed chairs. 

3. A case of pigeon-holes, also in black wood, for keep- 
ing a file of the newspaper. 

4. A stone cistern covered with wicker work, rather old- 
fashioned, but easily holding five pails of water. 

5. Three candlesticks and a pair of snuffers. 

6. A decanter and two glasses. 

7. Nine empty bottles (which, to judge by their labels, 
might have once contained real Jamaica rum and the genuine 
Swiss absinthe). 

But what most conspicuously stamped the establishment 
was a cupboard in the editorial room plentifully stored with 
turf, large squares of turf, dry, compact, and durable, mer- 
chandise, in fact, of the first order, which showed plainly 
the activity of the shareholding proprietors. 

When Thuillier went to the office, he found la Peyra.de 
at his editor's post. But within a quarter of an hour, the 
barrister experienced much annoyance at the high hand he 
was taking with regard to the choice of articles and contrib- 
utors. 

Prompted by his family, as usual, and by way of sequel 



342 BALZAC'S WORKS 

to his appointment on the reading committee of the Ode*on, 
Phellion had come to offer himself as dramatic editor. 

"My dear sir," he began, addressing himself to la Pey- 
rade, after having inquired about Thuillier's health, "I 
used to go to the play a great deal in the time of my youth. 
The stage has all through my long career continued to have 
a particular attraction for me, and the white hairs which 
to-day crown my forehead seem no obstacle to my enriching 
your interesting periodical with the fruit of my studies and 
experience. As a member of the reading committee of the 
Odeon Theatre, I am, moreover, in touch with the new 
authors, and, if I might rely on your discretion, I might 
go so far as to say that I might not impossibly rind among 
my papers a certain tragedy called 'Sapor,' which in my 
palmy days earned the approval of friends to whom it 
was read." 

"But why," answered la Peyrade, trying to gild the pill 
of refusal he was about to administer, "why not offer the 
play for performance ? We might be of assistance to you 
in such an enterprise." 

"Of course," said Thuillier, "a theatrical manager to 
whom we might recommend your drama." 

"No," answered Phellion, "first of all, as member of the 
reading committee of the Odeon, and then being called upon 
to judge others, it would not be proper for me to descend 
into the arena myself. I am an old gladiator, whose part it 
is to pronounce upon the strokes he can no longer deliver 
himself. In this sense, dramatic criticism is quite within 
my capacity, the more so as I think I have some new ideas 
about editing a theatrical department. According to my 
limited scope of view, the motto Castigat ridendo mores 
should be the great law, or rather let us say the only law 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 343 

of the drama. I should, therefore, prove unrelentingly 
severe toward those works which are purely imaginary, 
which do not bear at all upon morality, and which the 
prudence of a mother of a family — " 

"Pardon me," said la Peyrade, "if I interrupt you. 
But before allowing you to take so much trouble in out- 
lining your ideas, I have to confess that we have already 
made arrangements for our dramatic criticisms." 

"Oh, that alters the case," replied Phellion. 

"Yes," put in Thuillier, "we have some one else. We 
were far from hoping that you would make us the nattering 
offer of contributing." 

"Very well, then," said Phellion, now become a schemer, 
for the journalistic atmosphere has something mysterious 
about it that goes to men's heads, and especially if they are 
of the middle class, "since you believe my pen might be of 
service to you, perhaps a variety of stray reflections on dif- 
ferent subjects, which would come under the heading of 
'Thoughts By the Way,' might create some interest." 

"Yes," said la Peyrade, with malice unperceived by Phel- 
lion, "such thoughts as might be in the style of la Koche- 
foucauld or la Bruyere. What do you say to it, Thuillier?" 

He had reserved himself the right of leaving the re- 
sponsibility of refusals to the respected proprietor as far 
as possible. 

"I should say," answered Thuillier, "that reflections, 
especially if simply detached, would not be read much." 

"Of course," said Phellion eagerly, "it implies a great 
wealth of subjects, which the author treats of without 
attempting to weld them into a whole." 

"Would you propose to sign your name in every case?" 
asked la Peyrade. 



344 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"By no means!" cried Phellion, frightened. "I should 
not like to put myself on exhibition in that way." 

"Your bashfulness, which I fully appreciate and ap- 
prove," replied la Peyrade, "settles the matter conclusively. 
Stray reflections are an entirely individual mode of expres- 
sion, which must positively be personified over a name. 
You see for yourself — 'Thoughts By the Way, by Mister 
Three Stars' ; that conveys nothing to the public." 

Seeing that Phellion was preparing to raise other objec- 
tions, Thuillier, who was in a hurry to pick his crow with 
the Provencal, made up his mind to cut the discussion short. 

"My dear Phellion," he therefore said, "you must excuse 
us if we cannot avail ourselves of the pleasure of your con- 
versation any longer, but I have a very. important article to 
talk about with la Peyrade, and you know, in making up 
a newspaper, the time does go like the devil! So, if you 
would be kind enough to postpone this affair until another 
day — Madame Phellion is well, I hope?" 

"Very well, thank you," answered the great citizen, 
rising, and without seeming offended by the dismissal. 
"When may one expect the first issue? It is eagerly 
looked forward to in the district." 

"To-morrow, I think," said Thuillier, walking to the 
door with him, "our profession of faith will appear, and it 
is high time. You shall have a copy of the paper, my 
friend, and you will call again soon, will you not? Bring 
your manuscript with you; la Peyrade was perhaps a little 
too stiff." 

Having poured this balm into the wound of the depart- 
ing Phellion, Thuillier rang for the office boy. "Would 
you know that gentleman again, who has just gone out," 
Brigitte's brother asked him. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 345 

"Yes, sir, he's got a funny enough phiz for that. It's 
Monsieur Phellion, isn't it? I've let him in heaps of 
times," said Coffinet. 

"Very well. Whenever he comes I am not in, and 
neither is Monsieur de la Peyrade. Eemember this rule, 
which is to be strictly observed. You may go now." 

No sooner were la Peyrade and Thuillier settled down 
than Coffinet put his head in at the door again. 

"Monsieur." said he to the barrister, "there are two 
ladies wishing to see you." 

"What ladies?" 

"Two very well dressed ladies — look like mother and 
daughter. The daughter is handsome." 

"Shall I have them in here," la Peyrade asked Thuillier, 
"or shall I see them in the anteroom?" 

"Since they have been told you are in, let them come in 
here; but try to get rid of them as quickly as possible." 

And the proprietor of the "Echo de la Bievre" began 
walking up and down, with his hands clasped on his back, 
like Napoleon. 

Coffinet's opinion of the dresses of the two visitors, who 
now made their appearance, was very much subject to re- 
vision. A woman is well dressed, not when she wears rich 
and costly things, but when her attire, which may even be 
quite simple, shows a perfect harmony of shape and color, 
and is entirely appropriate to the wearer's personality. 
Now, a hat with a very narrow brim — called bibi in the 
slang of the day— trimmed with tall flowers and set so far 
back as to seem a protection for the shoulders rather than 
a frame to the face; a huge French cashmere shawl, worn 
with the awkwardness and inexperience of a bride; a silk 
plaid dress, with a heavy pattern and three rows of flounces; 



346 BALZAC'S WORKS 

far too many chains and charms, but irreproachable gloves 
and boots— such was the costume of the younger woman. 
As to the other, whom her slender companion had in tow, 
as it were, she was short and of wide circumference, and 
wore a dress, a shawl, and a bonnet which a practiced eye 
would have discerned to be of second-hand origin. It is on 
this economical plan that actresses' mothers — of whom an 
unutterable specimen now stood before la Feyrade — are 
always dressed. Condemned to do duty for two generations, 
the clothes they wear, contrary to their natural destiny, 
ascend instead of descending. 

"Whom have I the honor of speaking to?" asked la 
Peyrade, politely proffering chairs. 

"Monsieur," replied the younger person, who had un- 
ceremoniously pushed in first, "I am introducing myself on 
the strength of my acquaintance with one of your colleagues 
at the bar, Monsieur Minard. " 

"Ah, indeed!" said the Provencal; "and in what matter 
does he especially desire me to assist you ?" 

"Monsieur, I am a dramatic artist, and I first walked 
the boards in this district, which leads me to hope that 
a local paper will be kind to me. I have just left the 
Luxembourg Theatre, where I was leading lady for some 
time." 

"And you are now — •?'.' 

"At the Folies-Dramatiques. " 

"You are to appear soon?" 

"Yes, in a fairy pantomime, in which I wear five dif- 
ferent costumes — as a page, a little drummer- boy of the 
Imperial Guard, a great coquette, a witch on a broomstick, 
and the fairy Lilac blossom; that's at the end, among 
flames of red and blue fire." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 847 

"Well, Mademoiselle," said la Peyrade, "I will ask our 
dramatic editor to devote particular attention to your first 
appearance." 

"Yes — and to give her a little encouragement, please," 
coaxed Madame Cardinal. "The child is so young! And 
besides, though it's not for me to say it, I can swear she 
works day and night!" 

"Mother," said Olympe authoritatively, "I shall be 
judged by my merits. It is enough if Monsieur promises 
to have my first appearance noticed. At the Folies- 
Dramatiques so many pieces are given that are not men- 
tioned by the press, but being, as I said, a native of this 
district — " 

"Very good, Mademoiselle," said la Peyrade, conclu- 
sively. "Is my brother barrister, Monsieur Minard, quite 
well?" 

"Surely! He spent the evening at our house last night, 
rehearsing my part with me." 

"Present my compliments to him, pray," said la Peyrade, 
as he escorted the visitors to the door. 

Olympe Cardinal went out first, as she had come in, 
leaving a space between herself and her mother, who wad- 
dled after her laboriously, of about twenty yards. 

"Not at home to any one!" shouted Thuillier to the 
office boy, slamming the door and pushing the bolt. 'Now, 
my dear fellow, we can talk," Thuillier began ironically, 
having heard that nothing so confused an adversary. "I 
have heard something which will please you. I know why 
my pamphlet was seized." And he looked at la Peyrade 

fixedly. 

"Your pamphlet was seized because they wanted to seize 
it, of course," said the other airily. "They sought and they 



348 BALZAC'S WORKS 

found. His Majesty's officials always do find 'subversive 
doctrines' when they are looking for them." 

"No, yon are mistaken. The seizure was prearranged, 
preconcerted, plotted beforehand." 

"By whom?" 

"The scheme was concocted between those who wanted 
to kill the Treatise, and the wretches who promised to act 
as traitors." 

"In any case," remarked the barrister, "the purchasers 
were not making a brilliant bargain; for. although you have 
been prosecuted, I cannot see that your work has made a 
great sensation." 

"But what about the sellers — the betrayers?" inquired 
Thuillier, with redoubled irony. 

"The sellers had the better judgment." 

"Oh, yes, I know you think a lot of cleverness; but 
allow me to observe that the police, whose hand I see very 
plainly in this affair, is not famous for throwing money out 
of the window." And he looked at la Peyrade again. 

"So," went on Theodose, without blinking, "you think 
you have found out that the police traded in advance for 
the suppression of your pamphlet?" 

"Yes, and I know positively what amount was paid to 
the individual who had charge of that tidy transaction." 

"As to the person, I might possibly guess who it was by 
taking a little time. But I have no idea how much money 
was involved." 

"Very well, then, I can tell you how much. Twenty- 
five thousand francs," said Thuillier, with emphatic accent- 
uation, "is what Judas was paid. You understand me, 
Monsieur de la Peyrade?" 

"Of course," answered the Provencal, in a voice hoarse 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 349 

with emotion, "I ought to have known that I could not 
bring a serpent in here and escape its venomous bite ! You 
poor fool, do you not see that you are merely the echo of 
one of Cerizet's calumnies?" 

"It is not a question of Ce'rizet at all, who has told me 
a great deal of good about you. But tell me tins: how 
did you, being without a sou the day before, manage to 
count out twenty-five thousand francs to Dutocq the next 
day?" 

La Peyrade reflected for a moment. "No," said he, "it 
was not Dutocq who told you. He is not the man to make 
an enemy of such as myself, without adequate and sub- 
stantial results. The miserable informer is Cerizet, from 
whose clutches I rescued you the Madeleine house. It is 
Cerizet, whom, in my long-suffering patience, I took from 
his dunghill, to give an honorable position! It is that vile 
creature, whom every kindness only incites to another mis- 
deed! If you knew what the man was, you would be nau- 
seated with utter disgust. He is a discoverer of new worlds 
in the universe of infamy!" 

This time Thuillier spoke with subtlety. 

"I know nothing about Cerizet excepting through your- 
self. You represented him as being a manager of the most 
desirable kind. But if he were as black as the devil, and 
supposing the information did come from him, that would 
make you none the whiter, my boy.' 

"No doubt I was wrong to send him to you; but we 
wanted a man familiar with the working of a newspaper, 
and he had that qualification. Can one ever plumb the 
depths of such characters? I thought him reformed; A 
manager, after all, I said to myself, is prison carrion, a 
writing machine. I thought I had at least found the ma 



850 BALZAC'S WORKS 

terial for a dummy in him. I was mistaken; he will never 
be anything but a mud-cart." 

"All that is very fine, but those twenty-five thousand 
francs, which were so conveniently at hand, where did you 
get them from? The explanation of that you still owe me." 

"If you must know," replied la Peyrade, "those twenty- 
five thousand francs were the savings of a servant who 
asked me to take care of the money and pay her interest." 

"A servant with twenty-five thousand francs saved! 
Pooh! What a grand house she must have served in!" 

"Quite the contrary, she was housekeeper to an infirm 
old professor, and it was just because her possession of such 
a sum seemed so strange that she was anxious to leave it 
in my hands as a sort of trustee." 

"Really, my friend," laughed Thuillier scathingly, "if 
I were in want of material for a novel I should go to you! 
The imagination you have, in all conscience!" 

"What," said la Peyrade sharply, "you do not believe 
me?" 

"No, I do not believe you. Twenty-five thousand francs 
saved in the service of an old professor! It is just as credi- 
ble as the officer in the 'Dame Blanche' buying a castle out 
of his pay." 

"But what if I prove the truth of my statement? What 
if I let you put your finger on it ?" 

"In that case, I shall, like Saint Thomas, lower my 
standard before your evidence. But you will allow me to 
wait, my noble friend, until you have actually given the 
proof you speak of." 

Thuillier was splendid in his pride — "I would give two 
louis," said he to himself, "if Brigitte were here to see how 
I am handling him." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 351 

"Now, suppose," said la Peyrade, "that without leaving 
this office, and by the means of a message written before 
your eyes, I made the person from whom I got that money 
come here, and confirm my words, what should you say 
then?" 

This proposition, and the tone of self-confidence in 
which it was made, caused Thuillier no little surprise. 

"That would alter things," said he, changing his note. 
"But you will do it to-day? Right on the spot?" 

"Without going out of this room, I told you. It seems 
to me that was plain enough." 

"Who is to deliver the letter which you are going to 
write?" asked Thuillier, who, by dwelling on every detail, 
imagined he was evincing colossal perspicacity. "Who is 
to take the letter?" 

"Why, your office boy, whom you will order to do so 
yourself." 

"Well, then, write it," said Thuillier, determined to 
drive his man to the wall. 

La Peyrade took a sheet of paper, and, as he wrote, read 
out aloud: 

"Madame Lambert is requested to come at once, in an 
urgent matter, to the office of the 'Echo de la Bievre' news- 
paper, Rue Saint-Dominique-d'Enfer, whither the bearer 
will conduct her. She is impatiently awaited by her 
"Obedient servant, 

"Theodose de la Pi.vkadk." 

"Now, does this suit you?" said the barrister, passing 
over the letter to Thuillier. 

"Entirely," he answered, taking the precaution to fold 
it himself, and seal it up in an envelope. 



352 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"Put the address on, please," returning it to the other 
man. 

Thuillier then rang for Goffinet. 

"You will at once," said he, "take this to its address, 
and bring back the lady." 

After a short lapse of time, the office boy opened the 
door and ushered in Madame Lambert, whom he had found 
at home, and who entered the room in a somewhat excited 
state of mind. 

"You are Madame Lambert?" Thuillier asked in a mag- 
isterial tone. 

"Yes, sir," answered the pietist, in an uncertain voice. 

After asking her to sit down, and seeing that the office 
boy had remained, and was apparently waiting for further 
orders, he said — "That will do; you may go. And let no 
one else in." • 

Thnillier's grave and sovereign demeanor had but in- 
creased Madame Lambert's apprehensions. She had sup- 
posed that she would have to deal with la Peyrade only, and 
now found herself confronted by a severe-looking stranger, 
while the barrister, who bad merely bowed to her, proffered 
not a word. Not only this, but the scene of action was a 
newspaper office, and everybody knows that, especially for 
religious bigots, everything connected with the press has 
an infernal and devilish color. 

"Now, then, my dear fellow," said Thuillier to the bar- 
rister, "it seems to me there is nothing to hinder you from 
communicating to Madame the reason of your having sent 
for her." 

In order to leave Thuillier no grain of suspicion, la Pey- 
rade decided to attack the woman abruptly, and without 
forewarning her. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 353 

"We were going to ask you, Madame, whether it is not 
true that, about two months and a half ago, you put a 
round sum into my hands of twenty -five thousand francs, 
to be invested at interest by me?" 

Although she felt Thuillier's and the Provencal's eves 
upon her, Madame Lambert was unable, in the face of this 
pointblank question, to refrain from starting up. 

"Oh, my Lord and Saviour!" she exclaimed, "twenty- 
five thousand francs! Where should I have got so much 
money from ?" 

La Peyrade's face did not exhibit the disappointment 
one would have expected, and Thuiliier was now looking 
at him compassionately, as it were. 

"You see, my friend — •" he began. 

"You are quite sure," resumed the Provencal, "of never 
having deposited the sum of twenty-five thousand francs 
with me ? You make that assertion ? You still main- 
tain it?" 

"Oh, Monsieur, how should twenty-five thousand francs 
and a poor woman like myself ever have gone in at the same 
door together? What little I had, as every one knows, 
went into the housekeeping expenses of the dear old <jrn- 
tleman whose servant I have been for over twenty years." 

"This," stated Thuiliier pompously, "seems to me con- 
clusive." 

La Peyrade showed not a shadow of emotion. On the 
contrary, he seemed to be playing into Thuillier's lmnds. 

"Yon hear what she says, and if necessary I could now 
call you to witness that Madame had no twenty- Hve thou- 
sand francs, and therefore could not have handed them to 
me. And since the notary Dupuis, with whom I was sup- 
posed to have deposited the cash in her name, made oil to 



354 BALZAC'S WORKS 

Brussels this morning, with all his clients' funds, I have 
nothing to account to Madame for, and Dupuis's flight — " 

"The notary Dupuis has run away?" cried Madame Lam- 
bert, aroused by this terrible news from her usual manner of 
Christian humility and resignation. "Well, who ever heard 
of such a pig ? He was making fun of the Lord only this 
morning at Saint-Jacques' Cathedral!" 

"No doubt," remarked la Peyrade, "he was praying for 
a safe journey." 

"Monsieur is speaking very lightly," continued Madame 
Lambert, "but still, the thief is carrying off my savings, 
which I did in fact hand over to Monsieur, and Monsieur is 
responsible to me. I know no one in this matter but him!" 

"Well," said La Peyrade to Thuillier, pointing to Ma- 
dame Lambert, whose attitude was reminiscent of a she-wolf 
robbed of her young ones, "is that natural, or not? Do 
you think the lady and I have been playing a comedy for 
your benefit ?" 

"I am dumfounded," answered Thuillier, "by the audac- 
ity of that man Cerizet and dumfounded at my own stupidity. 
I have nothing to do but surrender on your own terms." 

"Madame," said the Provencal, turning cheerfully to the 
pietist, "the notary Dupuis continues to be a godly man, 
and is incapable of taking a button from his clients. Your 
money is still safe with him. As for this gentleman here, 
to whom I merely wanted to prove that you had paid me 
the money, he is my second self, and your secret is in as 
good keeping with him as it always will be with me." 

"Very well, sir," said Madame Lambert, relieved, "then 
I am not wanted here any longer?" 

"No, my dear lady, and kindly forgive me for being 
obliged to give you such a fright." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 355 

Madame Lambert went away with all the semblance 
of humble respect. 

"You see, my dear fellow," said Theodose to Thuillier, 
as soon as they were alone, "what it costs me to nurse your 
sick spirit. This debt was dormant; it was in a chronic 
state, and you have made it acute." 

"I am heart-broken, my dear friend, over my foolish 
credulity! Bat do not let the importunity of that woman 
trouble you at any time. We can arrange about the affair, 
even if it were necessary to advance you the money out of 
the dowry." 

"Anyhow, my good man, we must talk over existing 
conditions, with a view to reconstruction. I have no de- 
sire to submit to a fresh examination every morning, and 
just now, while we were waiting for the woman, I made out 
a little draft of something that we can discuss, and sign if 
you like, before the first number of the paper is issued." 

"But our deed of partnership, it seems to me, is a charter 
which—" 

"Which clause fourteen thereof allows you to cancel, by 
forfeiting a wretched five thousand francs. No thank you! 
We must devise something more binding than that!" 

Just then Cerizet came in, with a gay, triumphant air. 

"My masters," said he, "I bring you great riches, and 
in an hour the security will be signed, sealed, and de- 
livered." 

But observing that his news met with a very chilling 
reception, he asked what the matter was. 

"The matter is," thundered Thuillier, "that I refuse to 
associate myself with double-faced slanderers, that we want 
neither you nor your money, and that I beg you will honor 
this place with your presence no further!" 



356 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"Hi! hi! hi!" exclaimed Cerizet, "Papa Thuillier has 
been putting his foot into it again!" 

"Get out, sir!" roared Thuillier. "You have nothing 
more to do here!" 

"It looks, my little man," said Cerizet to la Peyrade, 
"as if you had been sticking pins into this honest gentle- 
man. He certainly did not invent the printing press, and 
as for you, we know what you can do. No matter, I think 
you were wrong in not calling on du Portail, and I am 
going to tell him — " 

"Get out, sir!" repeated Thuillier, threateningly. 

"After all, my dear sir," retorted the usurer, "it was not 
I who ran after you. The world went very well before you, 
and will go very well after you. Only try not to pay the 
twenty-five thousand out of your pocket, for it would make 
you look very silly!" 

Which having said, Cerizet put away his pocketbook, 
containing twenty-three thousand francs in banknotes, and 
taking his hat from the table where he had put it down, 
carefully polished it with his sleeve, and went out. 

Through trusting to Cerizet, Thuillier had been plunged 
into a most disastrous campaign. Having become la Pey- 
rade's meek slave, he was obliged to accede to all his de- 
mands: Five hundred francs a month for the barrister's 
share of work on the newspaper; his contributions spe- 
cially paid at the rate of fifty francs a column, an enor- 
mous price considering the small size of the paper; a pledge 
to continue the journal for six months, under pain of a for- 
feiture of fifteen thousand francs; absolute omnipotence 
stipulated in favor of the editor-in-chief, to whom was re- 
served the right of ordering, accepting, and rejecting any 
article, without being called upon to state his reasons for 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 357 

so doing. Such were the ostensible conditions of the agree- 
ment drawn up in duplicate, and in good faith, between the 
parties. 

But by virtue of a secret and signed understanding, 
Thuillier was held answerable for the twenty-five thou- 
sand francs which la Peyrade owed Madame Lambert, the 
aforesaid la Peyrade agreeing, in case of a marriage occur- 
ring between himself and Mademoiselle Celeste Colleville, 
and of the said sum having been previously disbursed by 
Thuillier, to acknowledge the sum as being received in ad- 
vance out of his wife's dowry. In this way, the cunning 
Provencal contrived to circumvent the law, which allows 
no such advance payments on marriage portions. For what 
else was that sum of twenty-five thousand francs, which 
Thuillier was only sure of obtaining the equivalent for 
when the match was actually consummated? 

The day of the first issue of the "Echo de la Bievre," 
although it was not a Sunday, Brigitte had a great con- 
course of people in her drawing-room. Reconciled with 
la Peyrade, whom her brother had brought to dinner, the 
old maid declared that, flattery aside, his first article was 
"a tremendous hit." And, according to all the visitors, the 
public had hailed the paper with delight in the morning. 
What the public is we all know: the public of every man 
who shoots a squib at the universe is composed of five or 
six familiar friends, compelled, at the hazard of falling out 
with the author, to take cognizance of his lucubrations. 

"I can truly say," exclaimed Colleville, "that it is the 
first political article I have read that has not sent me to 

sleep." 

"Undoubtedly," said Phellion, "this article seems to 
bear the impress of an Attic vigor and wit, in vain to 



368 BALZAC'S WORKS 

be sought in the composition of ordinary public news- 
papers. 

"Yes," agreed Dutocq, "it is very well done, and then 
the phrases are turned in a way that shows that it is no 
common style. I suppose that to-morrow the 'Echo de la 
Bievre' will be violently attacked by the other papers. 1 ' 

'•Just what we want," said Thuillier; "and if the gov- 
ernment would do us the kindness to seize us — -" 

"Thank you, Mister Proprietor!" said Fleury, the new 
manager, whom Thuillier had also asked to dinner, "I 
should prefer not to be called upon quite so soon to — " 

"Oh, as to being seized," interjected Dutocq, "you will 
never be seized; but I think the ministerial sheets will give 
it to you hot and strong." 

The next morning, Thuillier was at the office of his 
paper by eight o'clock in the morning, so as to be in good 
time for the tremendous onslaught. After looking through 
all the newspapers, he found that there was no more men- 
tion of the "Echo de la Bievre" than if it had not existed. 

When la Peyrade arrived he found his unhappy friend 
in dire consternation. 

"You are surprised, are you?" frankly said the Proven- 
gal. "I did not interrupt your illusions yesterday as to a 
warm engagement with the press, but I knew very well 
that this morning there would not be a single word about 
us. Is it not the case that against every paper which begins 
with some pretensions there is always for a fortnight, and 
sometimes even for a whole month, a conspiracy of silence?''' 

"A conspiracy of silence!" repeated Thuillier, lost in 
admiration. He did not know what it meant, but he saw 
something great in the phrase itself, something that ap- 
pealed to the imagination. When la Peyrade had explained 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 359 

to him that by a conspiracy of silence was to be understood 
a deliberate determination of already existing newspapers to 
disregard a new one, in order to avoid advertising it, Thuil- 
lier was hardly more satisfied than he had been in the first 
instance by the singing sonority of the phrase itself. Such is 
the man of the middle class: phrases are a currency that al- 
ways passes without dispute. A phrase will rouse him to 
anger, or soothe him. He will resent or applaud it. A 
phrase is enough to make him embark on a revolution, and 
upset the government of his own choice. 

But the paper was only the means; the end was Thuil- 
lier's candidature, which had been only hinted at in the first 
few issues. One morning, however, there appeared a letter 
in the columns of the "Echo 1 ' from some residents of the 
district, thanking their representative in the municipal 
council for the firm and generally liberal attitude he had 
maintained in standing for the people's interests. This 
letter, cleverly commented upon by la Peyi'ade in a lead- 
ing article, was signed by Barbet and Metivier, both tenants 
of the house in the Rue Saint-Dominique, the second sup- 
plying, in fact, the paper for the "Echo"; almost all of 
Brigitte's tradesmen, from whom, in view of tlie approach- 
ing election, she had continued to buy since removing to the 
Madeleine quarter; Thuillier's doctor, chemist, and archi 
tect; and, finally, Barniol, Phellion's son-in-law, who pro- 
fessed advanced views. As to Phellion, he had thought 
its language too unmeasured, and, as ever, without fear 
and without reproach, though he feared his refusal might 
damage his son's matrimonial prospects, he had bravely 
abstained from signing. 

This trial flight had the happiest results. The ten <>r 
twelve names thus put forward were supposed to express 



360 BALZAC'S WORKS 

the wish of the electors as a whole, and was called "the 
voice of the district." Furthermore, Thuillier's chances 
were made to look so favorable that Minard hesitated to 
stand as a candidate in opposition to him. 

Enchanted at the turn things were taking, Brigitte was 
the first to say that the marriage question must now be 
settled, and Thuillier coincided with her, the more so as 
he feared from moment to moment he would be called upon 
to pay the sum he had guaranteed. The atmosphere was 
thoroughly cleared between the Provencal and the old 
maid. She concealed none of the fears from him that she 
had conceived as to his autocratic rulership, should a son- 
in-law of his mental and moral composition come into the 
house. "If we were going to quarrel," said she, "it would 
be better to keep house separately from the start, which 
would not leave us worse friends than we were before." 

La Peyrade answered that he would not allow such an 
arrangement for anything in the world. Quite to the con- 
trary, he was counting, as an earnest of future comfort and 
happiness, upon the perfect safety and good order of his 
household affairs under the guiding hand of Brigitte. He 
would be fully occupied with important professional duties, 
and would of course not presume to intermeddle in details 
of which he was not at all competent to judge. In brief, he 
reassured and convinced her so completely that she asked 
him to take the necessary steps for the publication of the 
banns without delay, reserving to herself the task of pre- 
paring Celeste for the coming event, and undertaking to 
bring her to lamblike submission. 

"My little girl," said she one morning to Celeste, "I 
suppose you have given up the notion of becoming Felix 
Phellion's wife? in the first place, he is more of an atheist 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 361 

than ever, and you have seen for yourself, that his head is 
going wrong. At Madame Minard's you have seen Madame 
Marmus, who married a professor, a member of the Legion 
of Honor, and even of the Institute of France. There is no 
unhappier woman in the world. Her husband has lodged 
her behind the Luxembourg, in a dingy little street that is 
neither paved nor lighted. When he goes out he does not 
know where he is walking, and arrives at the Champs de 
Mars, when the Faubourg Poissoniere is his destination. 
He is not able to give his address to a cabman; he is always 
so abstracted that he cannot tell you whether it is before 
dinner or after. So you can imagine what sort of time a 
woman would have with people who were always looking 
through telescopes at the stars." 

"But Felix," objected Celeste, ''is not so abstracted as 
all that. ' 

"No doubt, because he is much younger; but with ad- 
vancing years his abstraction will certainly grow with his 
atheism. We are all agreed that he is not the right husband 
f or you— your mother, your father, Thuillier, and myself— 
and all of us who have any common-sense in the house have 
decided that you are to select la Peyrade, a man of the 
world, who will make a name for himself, who has done us 
great services, and who is to make your godfather a deputy. 
We are disposed to give you, on his account, a dowry sue* 
as we certainly should not provide for another man. S>. 
you understand, the banns will be published, and this day 
week we shall sign the marriage contract. There will be a 
grand dinner for the relations and friends, and afterward an 
evening party, at which the contract and settlements will be 
signed, and at which your wedding outfit and your presents 
will be exhibited. As 1 shall manage it all, lean mm 

(P)— Vol. 16 



362 BALZAC'S WORKS 

for its being done in proper style, especially if you are not 
childish, and follow our ideas like a good girl." 

"But, Aunt Brigitte — " timidly murmured Celeste. 

"There are no 'buts' and no 'lfs,' " imperiously rejoined 
the old maid. "It must be just as I say, and unless you 
should happen, my fine young lady, to think you know 
better than all your relations — " 

"I will do anything you wish, aunt," answered Celeste, 
who felt as though a thundercloud were about to burst over- 
head, and knew that she had not the strength to resist the 
iron woman whose edict had just gone forth. 

At once going off to pour her sorrows into her god 
mother's bosom, and hearing herself counselled to be 
patient and resigned, the poor child thought that in this 
quarter there was no support to be expected, and no en- 
couragement to offer the slightest resistance, and she 
therefore made up her mind that the sacrifice was an 
accomplished fact. 

Throwing herself with frenzied zeal into the new occu- 
pation thus brought into her life, Brigitte set vigorously to 
work to get clothes made for the bride, and to buy presents. 
Like all misers, who on great occasions change their habits 
and character, the old maid thought nothing good enough, 
and flung her money about so freely that up to the day of 
the signing of the contract the jeweller, the milliner, the 
seamstress, the upholsterer, all from the most noted estab- 
lishments, were Brigitte 's permanent guests. 

"It is like a procession," said Josephine the cook to 
Francoise from the Minards' ; "the bell goes from morning 
until night." 

The dinner was ordered at Chabot and Potel's, and not 
at Che vet's. This was to demonstrate Brigitte 's indepen- 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 363 

dence of spirit, and her emancipation from the errors of 
Madame de Grodollo. The party was thus made up: three 
Thuilliers and three Collevilles, including the bride: la 
Peyrade, Dutocq and Fleury, the manager of the "Echo 
de la Bievre,'' whom he had asked to be the witnesses, the 
very small number of his friends leaving him no choice; 
Minard and Eabourdin, the witnesses selected for Celeste; 
Madame and Mademoiselle Minard, and Minard junior; two 
of Thuillier's colleagues from the general council ; Dnpuis, 
the notary, who was to draw up the settlements; and, 
finally, the Abbe Gondrin, Madame Thuillier's and Ce- 
leste's spiritual adviser, who was to pronounce the nuptial 
benediction. 

When they sat down to table, three guests were still 
missing: the two Minards, father and son, and the notary 
Dupuis. This lawyer had written a line to Thuillier, in the 
morning, to say that he was not to expect him at dinner, 
but that at nine o'clock precisely he would be in the 
drawing-room with the papers, when he would be at Mad- 
emoiselle Thuillier's orders. Julien Minard was excused 
bv his mother, who said he was kept to his room by a bad 
sore throat. Minard senior's absence— his wife and daugh- 
ter arriving without him— remained unexplained, and as 
the time was going by, Madame Minard, assutftng the hosts 
that her husband would join the company, urged them not 
to wait for him. Brigitte ordered the soup to be kept warm 
for him, because, according to middle class ideas, a dinner 
without soup is not a dinner. The meal was doI especially 
lively, and if the fare was better than at the faun. us banquet 
improvised at the election for the general council, the 
greater was the contrast in point of spirit and Bpwrtaneitj 
in the conversation. 



364 BALZAC'S WORKS 

The absence of the three guests aforesaid was the first 
reason of depression. Besides, Flavie was in a mournful 
mood, having seen la Peyrade again, and having gone 
through a fearful scene with him. Celeste, even if she had 
been happy in the choice made for her, could not in obedi- 
ence to propriety have displayed her feelings freely. As it 
was, she took little pains to show a bright face, and did not 
even care to look at her godmother, whose countenance, so 
to speak, looked like a long bleat. The poor child feared 
that a look exchanged between them would bring tears to 
her eyes. Thuillier was mutely wrapped up in his own im- 
portance, and Brigitte, no longer amid surroundings where 
her sway was undisputed, also showed awkward embarrass- 
ment. Colleville attempted to raise the temperature of the 
assembly by some jocularities, but in the circle where he 
vented them his somewhat coarse pleasantries had the effect 
of laughter in a sick room, and silent hints from Thuillier, 
la Peyrade, and Madame Colleville put a damper on his 
gayety and turbulently expansive humor. Curious it was, 
that the gravest member of the party, seconded by Rabour- 
din, succeeded in making the atmosphere more genial. A 
man of the most refined and cultivated mind, the Abbe 
Gondrin, like all pure and well-regulated souls, had a fund 
of quiet mirth, which he knew how to communicate to 
others, and the first flush of animation made its appearance 
at the same time as Minard. 

After making his excuses, alleging some business at the 
municipal office which brooked no delay, the glances he 
exchanged with his wife were calculated rather to indicate 
that his business had been very private. La Peyrade and 
Thuillier had been sent seats for the first performance of 
the "Telegraphe d' Amour," the great fairy pantomime in 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 365 

which Olympe Cardinal was to appear, and they were little 
deceived on the score of Julien Minard's indisposition. 
They, in their turn, exchanged looks, after noticing the 
sign of intelligence between the spouses, and began to ask 
themselves whether young Minard's secret had not been 
unearthed, and whether the mayor of the eleventh district 
had not been detained so late in direct efforts to ascertain 
the nature of his son's misdemeanors. Minard, being in the 
habit of leading conversation everywhere, and supposing it 
his duty to conceal his domestic cares under the mask of a 
tranquil mind, said, as soon as he had hastily swallowed 
a few morsels, "Gentlemen, do you know the latest and 
greatest news ?" 

"What is it?" asked everybody with curiosity. 

"The Academy of Science," he answered, "at its session 
to-day, received a communication regarding a remarkable 
discovery. We now know that there is another star in the 
sky. What must lend a special interest to this great astro- 
nomical event, in the eyes of the ladies and gentlemen I 
have the honor of addressing, is that the discoverer is a 
resident of the twelfth district, which several of you still 
inhabit, or have inhabited for a long time. In fact, all the 
circumstances attending upon this grand scientific feat are 
extraordinary. The Academy was so thoroughly convinced 
of the existence of the star by the missive announcing it. 
that, upon closing, a deputation went to the domicile of the 
modern Galileo, to congratulate him in the name of the 
whole society, although the new star is visible neither to 
the naked eye, nor through the telescope. The pure force 
of calculation and reasoning alone has incontroverted v es- 
tablished its existence, and its place in the firmament of 
heaven. And do you know, gentlemen, who this Chris- 



366 BALZAC'S WORKS 

topher Columbus of the new celestial world is? An old 
man three-quarters blind, and who can see just enough to 
find his way about." 

"How splendid! How wonderful!" exclaimed every 
one. "And what is his name?" clamored several voices. 

"Monsieur Picot, or, if you like, Father Picot, for so 
he is called in the whole Rue Val-de-Grace, where he lives. 
He is only an old professor of mathematics, who, by the 
way, can boast some very good pupils. It happens to be 
Felix Phellion, whom you all know, and who studied under 
him, who in his old master's name read out the paper to the 
Academy." 

At the mention of Felix, and recalling his promise of 
something in the sky, which she had taken for sheer mad- 
ness, Celeste looked at Madame Thuillier, who showed a 
little cheerfulness, which seemed to say — "Courage, child, 
all is not lost!" 

"My dear boy," said Thuillier to la Peyrade, "Felix is 
supposed to come here to-night. We must capture him and 
get a communication about the new star from him. It 
would be a great stroke for our 'Echo,' if we were the 
first to publish it." 

"Indeed," said Minard, taking it upon himself to supply 
an answer, "it would be a great service to the public, since 
the affair will excite widespread interest, and create a great 
sensation. The deputation, not finding Monsieur Picot at 
home, at once waited upon the Minister of Public Instruc- 
tion. The minister rushed off to the Tuileries, and the 
'Messager, ' in an extra edition this evening, which I read 
in my carriage on my way here, states that Monsieur Picot 
has been made a Knight of the Legion of Honor, and 
that a pension of eighteen hundred francs was granted him 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 367 

from the fund for the encouragement of letters and the 



sciences." 



"Now, there," said Thuillier, "is a Cross worthily be- 
stowed." 

"But a pension of eighteen hundred francs," demurred 
Dutocq, "seems to me rather paltry." 

"Undoubtedly," rejoined Thuillier, "and the more so as 
this money, after all, belongs to the tax-payers, and when 
we see it constantly wasted on — " 

"Eighteen hundred francs," broke in Minard, "is a good 
deal, nevertheless, especially for a man of science. Those 
people have scarcely any needs, and are accustomed to living 
on very little." 

"I believe," said la Peyrade, "that our good Monsieur 
Picot does not lead a very regular life; for just at present 
his family, who first tried to get a commission in lunacy, are 
asking for legally appointed trustees, to take charge of his 
affairs. It is said that he has allowed himself to be cheated 
by a servant in his house. You know her, Thuillier, the 
woman who came to the newspaper the other day, and who 
had been told that Dupuis, the notary with whom she had 
deposited some money, had run away with it." 

"Yes, yes, quite so, of course," assented Thuillier, em- 
phatically; "you are right, I know her." 

"How curious," remarked Brigitte, finding her opportu- 
nity to fortify the argument which, a few days before, the 
absent-mindedness of the Academician Marmus had afforded 
her, "that all these professors, apart from their Learning, are 
no use for anything, and that in their own families they 
must be taken .care of like children." 

"That proves," said the Abbe (irondrin, ••with what 
deep absorption they pursue their studies, and at the 



368 BALZAC'S WORKS 

same time shows a simplicity of character that is really 
affecting — " 

He was interrupted by the noise of a violent altercation 
going forward in the antechamber. 

"You must let me in, I tell you!" cried a voice. 

"No, Monsieur, you shall not go in," a manservant was 
replying. "They are at dinner, as I have told you, and you 
cannot force your way into a private house in this manner." 

Thuillier turned pale. Since the seizure of his pamphlet, 
he anticipated a descent of the police in every unusual visit. 

Among other rules taught Brigitte by Madame de Go 
dollo, one which had needed most repetition was, never to 
rise from the table where one is presiding as mistress of the 
house, unless when giving the signal for everybody to leave 
it. But the circumstances gave her an excuse — "I must go 
and see what it is," said she quickly to Thuillier, whose 
uneasiness she had noticed. "What is the matter?" she 
asked the servant, as soon as she arrived upon the scene 
of the conflict. 

"The matter is, that this gentleman insists upon being 
admitted, saying that no one can be dining at eight 
o'clock." 

"But who are you, sir?" said Brigitte to the rather 
singularly dressed old man, whose eyes were covered with 
a green shade. 

"Madame, I am neither a beggar nor a barefooted rag- 
amuffin," answered the old man, in a resounding tone of 
voice. "My name is Picot; I am a professor of math- 
ematics." 

"Eue Val-de-Grace?" asked Brigitte. 

"Yes, number 9, next door to the fruiterer." 

"Come in, Monsieur, come in, we shall only be too 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 369 

happy to have you," exclaimed Thuillicr, who, learning 
of his identity, had rushed out to ask the man of learn- 
ing in. 

"Now, then, you rascal, 1 ' said the professor, turning 
upon the manservant, who was retiring now that everything 
was amicably settled, "didn't I tell you I would go in?" 

Father Picot, a tall man of severe and angular counte- 
nance, and who, in spite of the mitigating blond wig with 
large curls and the peaceful eye-shade which we have al- 
ready mentioned, exhibited truculent and aggressive traits 
in his bold features, deadly pale from unremitting study. 
He had given sufficient proof of his irritability before he 
had even appeared in the dining-room, where every one rose 
to greet him. He wore an enormous garment, something 
between an overcoat and a dressing-gown, under which a 
massive, iron-gray cloth waistcoat, garnished with a double 
row of buttons from top to bottom (military style), formed 
a sort of breastplate. His trousers, although October was 
drawing to its close, were of black "lasting" cloth, and be- 
tokened their length of service by two shining slabs in the 
region of the knees. But the most striking detail of the old 
man's dress was a pair of Patagonian feet incased in felt 
shoes, which, outlining the shape of mountainously pro- 
truding, gigantic bunions, involuntarily called to one's 
mind the back of a dromedary or a case of advanced 
elephantiasis. 

Once installed in the chair offered him with effusive 
politeness, and after all the company was reseat -d, in the 
midst of the silence created by curiosity the old man shouted 
with a voice of thunder— "Where is he? Where is that 
good-for-nothing, that scamp ? Let him show himself, if he 
dare! Let him speak, if he dare!" 



370 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"With whom are you so angry?" asked Thuillier, in 
a conciliatory tone, which at the same time was rather 
patronizing. 

"A rascal whom I did not find at home, sir, and whom I 
was told was in this house. I am at Monsieur Thuillier's, 
am I not, member of the general council, Place Madeleine, 
second story ?•'.' 

"Quite so, Monsieur," responded Thuillier, "and I may 
add that you have the respect and sympathy of all here 
assembled." 

"And you will, no doubt," chimed in Minard, "permit 
the mayor of the district adjoining your own to congrat- 
ulate himself on being in the presence of Monsieur Picot, 
the gentleman, of course, who has just made his name im- 
mortal by the discovery of a new star?" 

"Yes, Monsieur," answered the professor, lifting up the 
stentorian diapason of his voice again, "I am Picot — the 
man you mean. But I have discovered no star. I pay no 
attention to such fads. My eyes are worn-out, and the im- 
pudent fellow 1 came here in search of has been playing a 
joke on me. The coward is hiding somewhere, and is afraid 
to say a word in front of me!" 

"But who is this person with whom you are so angry?" 
the terrible old man was asked by several of the guests at 
once. 

"An unnatural disciple, a thorough rascal — very clever, 
though — and his name is Felix Phellion." 

The astonishment of the company may readily be imag- 
ined. Thinking the situation amusing, Colleville and la 
Peyrade burst out laughing. 

"You are laughing, you miserable creature," exclaimed 
the irate mathematician, getting up. "Why don't you come 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 371 

and laugh within arm's-length of me?" Brandishing an 
enormous walking-cane with a porcelain knob, he nearly 
knocked one of the candlesticks on the table against Ma- 
dame Minard's head. 

"You have been misinformed, Monsieur," said Brigitte, 
catching his arm. "Monsieur Felix Phellion is not here; 
he may possibly arrive in time for the evening party we are 
giving, but he is not here yet." 

"Your evening parties do not begin early," said the old 
man; "it is past eight o'clock. But since you expect Mon- 
sieur Felix, you will allow me to wait for him here. You 
were in the middle of dinner, I believe — 'don't let me disturb 
you." Upon which he calmly sat down again. 

"With your permission, Monsieur," said Brigitte, 'we 
will continue, or rather finish, since we were at dessert. 
May I offer you 'anything, a glass of champagne and a 
biscuit ?" 

"That will suit me very well, Madame. No one ever 
refuses champagne, and I have no objection to taking re- 
freshments between meals. Only, it seems to me you dine 
very late." 

Room was made at the table between Colleville and Ma- 
demoiselle Minard, and the musician undertook to keep Ilia 
new neighbor's glass replenished. A plate of little cakes 
was also put before him. 

"Monsieur," then said la Peyrade in a wheedling tone, 
"you see how surprised we all are at your complaining of 
Monsieur Felix Phellion, such a quiet, inoffensive young 
man. What has he been doing to you, to make you so 
deeply incensed at him?" 

His mouth full of pastry, which lie was making away 
with in quantities alarming to Brigitte, the professor mo- 



372 BALZAC'S WORKS 

tioned that he was going to answer, and after taking the 
wrong glass and emptying Colleville's — "What has the 
rascal done to me?" he said. "He has committed crimes 
against me bad enough to hang for, and this is not the first 
he is guilty of. He knows very well, as all my pupils do, 
that I detest stars. And the deputation that came to con- 
gratulate me may think itself lucky that I was not at home, 
for I can assure you that those fine academicians would 
have spent a very unpleasant quarter of an hour!" 

"However, Monsieur Picot, " resumed Monsieur Minard, 
"Phellion was only culpable in so far as he ascribed his dis- 
covery to yourself, and it seems to me that his bad behavior 
brought some compensation with it, the Gross of the Legion 
of Honor, a pension, and the renown which will attach to 
your name." 

"I will take the Cross and the pension," said the old 
man, emptying his glass, which he then, to Brigitte's great 
terror, put down with such violence as to break the stem. 
"The government has been owing me both for twenty years, 
not for discovering stars — I have always despised that arti- 
cle — but for my 'Theory of Perpetual Motion,' four vol- 
umes, quarto, illustrated, Paris, 1825. You see, sir, that 
an attempt to award me fame is like pouring water into a 
river. I stood so little in need of Monsieur Phellion's as- 
sistance toward holding my position in the world of science 
that I expelled him in disgrace long ago." 

"Then, this is not the first time he has played you a 
trick with a star?" asked Colleville humorously. 

"He has done much worse than that!" shouted the old 
mathematician. "He has destroyed my reputation; he has 
tarnished my honor! My theory of 'Perpetual Motion,' 
which it cost me my eyes to publish, would have made my 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 373 

fortune and given me immortality, if it had been printed at 
the royal printing-office. That wretched Felix spoiled the 
whole thing. From time to time, the young sycophant 
would say, pretending to have relations with my publisher: 
'Papa Picot, it is selling very well, your book is. Here are 
five hundred francs (or fifty crowns, or sometimes even a 
thousand francs) which your bookseller has asked me to 
remit to you.' These tactics went on for years, and the 
bookseller, who was vile enough to enter into the plot, used 
to tell me when I looked in at his shop: 'Oh, yes, it is not 
going badly at all, it is moving along nicely, and the first 
edition will soon be sold out. ' Suspecting nothing, I pock- 
eted the money, and said to myself: l My book is taking; 
my ideas are spreading little by little, and some day I may 
expect to see some great capitalists come and make propos- 
als to me for the application of my system.' Lulled in false 
security, I did nothing at all for the circulation of my book, 
which was supposed to be selling itself, when, after six 
years, I found out that nine copies had been bought alto- 
gether. Thus was I made the victim of jealousy and dark 
malice, and wickedly despoiled of the fruits of my labors." 

"But," asked Minard, acting as spokesman for the in- 
ward thought of the whole assembly, "is not a very ingen- 
ious and delicate plan discernible there — ?" 

"Of bestowing alms on me, eh?" interrupted the profes- 
sor, with a yell that made Mademoiselle Minar.l jump from 
her chair; "of humiliating me, of heaping obloquy upon me 
—upon me, his old master? Do I look as if I wanted 
charity ?" 

Brigitte, who was in fear and trembling, on account, of 
her glasses, and whose nerves were giving way before the 
old gentleman's huge appetite for cakes and champagne, 



374 BALZAC'S WORKS 

now rose as a signal for adjournment to the drawing-room. 
Moreover, she had several times heard the bell ring, an- 
nouncing the arrival of some of the guests for the evennig 
party. Intending to effect the transmigration of the old 
professor, Colleville pleasantly offered him his arm. 

"No, Monsieur, allow me to remain where I am, not 
being dressed for an evening party. Besides, glaring lights 
hurt my eyes. I am not fond of making an exhibition of 
myself, and the scene between me and my pupil had best 
be enacted in private." 

"Well, leave him here, then," said Brigitte to Colleville. 

And nobody pressed the old fellow, who had uncon- 
sciously sunk in the esteem of all the guests. Only, be- 
fore leaving him alone in the dining-room, the careful house- 
keeper took the precaution of moving any breakables out 
of his reach, and then inquired by way of civility — "Shall 
I send you some coffee ?" 

"I will take some, if you please, and some brandy, 
too." 

"Oh, he takes everything!" said Brigitte to the man- 
servant, as she left the room. And she instructed him to 
keep his eye on the old "maniac." 

Entering the drawing-room, she saw that the Abbe Gron- 
drin had become the centre of the encircling guests, and, 
drawing near, she heard him say — "Never in my life have 
I met with an example of more touching and ingenious de- 
votion. Not to let the left hand know what the right hand 
is doing, that is going far toward the principle of Christian- 
ity, but to sacrifice one's fame and make it another man's 
footstool, under such extraordinary conditions, with the 
probability of being denied, despised, and repulsed, that 
is carrying out the highest precepts of the Holy Gospel! 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 875 

Would that I knew this noble young man, and that I might 
clasp hands with him!" 

Her arm linked in her godmother's, Celeste was standing 
a few feet from the priest. Her ears drinking in his words, 
as he characterized Felix's generous conduct, she clung to 
Madame Thuillier's arm more closely, whispering — "You 
hear, godmother, you hear!" 

To counteract the effect which the worthy divine's warm 
words of praise must inevitably have upon Celeste, Thuillier 
spoke thus — "Unfortunately, Monsieur l'Abbe, the young 
man whom you are giving such a grand name is not alto- 
gether a stranger to you. I have had occasion to speak 
with you about him, and have regretted our inability 
to carry out certain plans we had regarding him, owing 
to the very compromising independence of his religious 
views." 

"Ah, it is the same young man?" asked the priest. 
"I am much astonished, and must say that the connection 
would not have occurred to me. But do not be alarmed, 
for, sooner or later, these elect souls always return to the 
fold, and however long these prodigal children should tarry 
on the road to God, I should never despair of His iniinite 
mercy toward them." Upon which the Abbe looked about 
for his hat, with the intention of taking his departure. Just 
as he was about to steal away quietly, he was stopped by 
Minard. 

"Monsieur," said the mayor of the eleventh district, 
"permit me the privilege of shaking hands with you, and of 
congratulating you upon the words of toleration which have 
fallen from your mouth. Ah! if all clergymen were like 
you, what conquests might religion not make! I have a 
family trouble myself at the present time, and must decide 



376 BALZAC'S WORKS 

upon a plan of conduct on which I should be glad of your 
advice and the assistance of your wisdom." 

"Whenever you please," replied the Abbe, "at number 
8, Rue de la Madeleine; after Mass, which I say at six 
o'clock, I am usually at home the whole morning." 

The next day Minard called on the Phellions. 

"My dear Felix!" exclaimed the mayor, shaking hands 
warmly with the young professor, "it is only on your ac- 
count that I have come this morning ; I want to ofier you 
my congratulations!" 

"What is it?" asked Phellion. "Have the Thuilliers 
at last seen fit to — ?" 

"Who is talking of the Thuilliers?" the mayor broke 
in. "But," he continued, fixing his eye on Felix, "do you 
mean to say the young dog has even concealed from your- 
self— ?" 

"I do not believe my son has ever hidden anything from 

me," said the great citizen. 

"So that you are aware of the sublime astronomical dis- 
covery which he yesterday communicated to the Academj 

of Science?" 

"Your kindness, Monsieur, has misled you," said Felix. 
"I was only the reader, not the author, of the document." 

"Oh, that is absurd! Only the reader, indeed! I know 
the whole story!" 

"But see," urged Felix, "here is the 'Constitutional,' 
which says that Monsieur Picot made the discovery, and 
also mentions the distinctions that were at once awarded 
him by the government." 

"Felix is right," said Phellion. "The paper substan- 
tiates his statement, and I think the government has be- 
haved very properly in this case." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 377 

"But, my dear major, I repeat that the whole story is 
out, and your son is all the more to be admired. Crediting 
his old master with his own discovery, in order to bring 
him recognition and reward by the authorities, that is a 
finer deed than I have heard of in all antiquity!" 

"Felix," said Phellion senior, with signs of emotion, 
"these fearful tasks you have been working at for some 
time, these perpetual visits to the observatory — " 

"But, my dear father, Monsieur Minard is mistaken!" 

"Mistaken! When I have the whole affair from Mon- 
sieur Picot himself?" 

This argument, thrown out in the most convincing man- 
ner, at last settled the question in Phellion's mind. 

"Felix, my child!" he cried, going to his son with out- 
stretched arms. 

"And this is the man," exclaimed Madame Phellion, 
transported with delight, and likewise embracing her son, 
"over whom la Peyrade is given preference!" 

"He is not preferred, Madame," said Minard. "Because 
the Thuilliers are not the dupes of this impostor, but he is 
forcing himself on them. Thuillier has taken it into his 
head that he cannot reach the deputy's chair without him — 
which he has not yet got, by the way — and has made up his 
mind to yield all else to that ambition." 

"But how dreadful," ejaculated Madame Phellion, "to 
put one's ambition above the happiness of one's children!" 

"My dear wife," answered Phellion, "let there be no 
bitterness of heart. The Lord in His goodness has sent 
us great comfort, and this marriage, which, I am sorry to 
say, Felix does not take as philosophically as he ought, may 
not occur after all." 

The incredulous Felix shook his head. 



378 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"Yes," said Minard, "the major speaks true. Last 
night, when the settlements were to be signed there was a 
hitch. You were not there, but your absence was univer- 
sally commented on." 

"We were invited," said Phellion,"and up to the last 
moment were hesitating about going. You see, we were in 
a false position, and then Felix, after reading the paper 
before the Academy, was utterly exhausted by excitement 
and fatigue. To go without him would have been awk- 
ward, and we therefore pursued the prudent policy of stay- 
ing at home." 

Minard then related the singular Picot episode of the 
previous evening, and concluded by repeating the Abbe 
Gondrin's laudatory commendation of Felix's conduct, not 
forgetting to mention the desire which the young priest had 
expressed of meeting him. 

"I will go to see him," said Felix. "Do you know 
where he lives?" 

"Rue de la Madeleine, number eight," replied Minard. 
"I have just left him. I had a very delicate matter to put 
before him, and his counsels were as amiable as they were 
sound. But the great event of the evening was to be the 
reading of the marriage contract, in the presence of a 
numerous company, and the notary, after keeping us wait- 
ing for a good hour, never came!" 

"Then," asked Felix eagerly, "the contract was not 
signed at all?" 

"Not even read, my young friend. The announce- 
ment was suddenly made that the notary had left for 
Brussels." 

"On some important business, no doubt," added Phel- 
lion, immediately. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 379 

"Oh, most important! A bill of bankruptcy of half a 
million of francs is all that he left behind." 

"But who," demanded Phellion, "is this public official 
that has violated his sacred conscience in so scandalous a 
manner?" 

"Why, your neighbor in the Rue Saint- Jacques, the 
notary Dupuis." 

"What," said Madame Phellion, "such a pious man, 
and a churchwarden of the parish?" 

"Don't you know, Madame," answered Minard, "that 
those are the very people to cover themselves with that 
sort of glory? And he is not the first." 

"But this piece of news," said Phellion, "coming in the 
midst of a private party, must surely have had the effect of 
a thunderbolt." 

"The more so," remarked the mayor, "as it was brought 
in the most singular and unexpected manner." 

"Do tell us all about it!" said Madame Phellion, quite 
excited. 

"It seems that the virtuous scoundrel had in his hands 
savings of a number of domestic servants, and that Mon- 
sieur de la Peyrade— for, you see, all those religious saints 
work together— was in the habit of recruiting capital among 

that class." 

Here Madame Phellion interposed— "I always said that 

Provencal was not to be relied upon." 

"He deposited with Dupuis, on account of an old house- 
keeper, a hypocrite like himself, a certain little amount, 
which was quite worth while— twenty-five thousand francs, 
if you please! And this housekeeper, Madame Lambert 

by name — " 

"Twenty-five thousand francs in savings!" exclaimed 



380 BALZAC'S WORKS 

Felix. "I am not surprised that poor Father Picot was 

always so badly off." 

Here the little manservant came in, and handed a letter 
to Felix Phellion. It was from old Picot, written at his 
dictation by Madame Lambert, and for that reason we do 
not produce its orthography. The woman's writing was of 
that kind which, once seen, one never forgets. Kecognizing 
it at once — "It is a letter from the professor," said Felix, 
adding, before opening it, "You will excuse me, Monsieur 
Minard?" 

"It will be a fine scolding," was the answer. "I never 
in my life saw anything so funny as his anger last night." 

Felix smiled as he read the epistle, and when he had 
finished it, handed it to his father, saying— "You may read 
it aloud." 

This the great citizen did in the most solemn tones: 

"My dear Felix — I have just received your note, and 
it arrived very opportunely, for I was considerably dis- 
pleased with you. A man of my age, and one who has 
solved the great problem of Perpetual Motion, does not 
spend his time on such trifles as stars. That may be good 
enough for greenhorns and beginners like yourself, which 
is what I went to tell the Minister of Public Instruction this 
morning, who, by the way, received me with the greatest 
courtesy. I put it to him whether, having sent them to the 
wrong address, he would not take back his Cross and his 
pension, although I had certainly deserved them in other 
ways. 

"'The government,' answered the Minister, 'is not 
likely to make mistakes; what it does is always well done, 
and a decree signed by his Majesty's hand cannot be an- 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 381 

nulled. Labors of yours have earned you both the favors 
that the King is bestowing, and it is really an old debt 
which I am so happy as to liquidate in his name.' 

" 'But what about Felix?' I asked. 'For, after all, you 
know that that discovery is very creditable to such a 
young man.' 

" 'Monsieur Felix Phellion,' was the Minister's reply, 
'will be notified of his elevation to the Legion of Honor 
during the day; I shall have the royal ordinance signed this 
morning. Moreover, there is a seat vacant in the Academy 
of Science just now, and unless you have pretensions to it 
yourself — ' 

"I told the Minister that I would have none of his acad- 
emy, which is like a shop with a large sign outside and 
nothing to sell, upon which he assured me that your 
chances were excellent. 

"This, my poor boy, is all I have been able to do to pay 
you back for your good intentions, and to show that I have 
no ill feeling toward you. 

"Your old master and friend, 

"PlCOT, 
"Knight of the Legion of Honor. 

"P.S.— I wish you could get a little bottle of that tine 
old brandy for me from your respected mother. You gave 
me some once before. I have not a drop left, and I drank 
some last night fit to wash horses' feet with, though I did 
not disdain the fair Hebe who served it." 

"Certainly he shall have some more," said Madame 
Phellion. "and not only a bottle, but a whole gallon.' 

"And I," joined in Minard, so as not to be behindhand, 
"will send him a few bottles too, but do not tell him where 



382 BALZAC'S WORKS 

they are from; one can never tell how that extraordinary- 
man will take a thing." 

"Wife," suddenly said Phellion, "my black coat and 
a white tie!" 

"Where are you going to?" she asked. "To the Min- 
ister to thank him?" 

"Bring those things, as I tell you. I have an important 
call to make, and his worship the mayor will be kind 
enough to excuse me." 

"I must go too," rejoined the other, "as I must attend 
to a matter relating to my son, who, I may say, has not 
discovered a star." 

Vainly questioned by his wife and son, Phellion finished 
dressing, put on a pair of white gloves, sent for a carriage, 
and in a quarter of an hour was at Brigitte's door. He 
found her presiding over the cleaning of the silver plate 
and china used the day before. Suspending this domestic 
performance in honor of her visitor — "Well, Papa Phel- 
lion," said the old maid, when he was seated, "you left us 
in the lurch yesterday, which proved that you were cleverer 
than the rest. Do you know what trick the notary 
played us 67 

"I know all about it, and the reprieve in the execution 
of your plan arising from that unforeseen occurrence is the 
theme of a momentous discussion I desire to have with 
you. Providence sometimes seems to take pleasure in 
counter-checking our pet combinations, and sometimes, by 
the means of placing obstacles in our way, seems to warn 
us that we are on the wrong path, and bids us pause." 

"Providence," said the strong-minded Brigitte, "has 
something better to do than to be thinking of us." 

"That is a matter of opinion, but I am accustomed to 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 383 

recognize its hand in little things as well as in great, and 
assuredly, if it had yesterday allowed the redemption of 
your pledges to Monsieur de la Peyrade to begin, you 
would not have seen me here now." 

"Then, you imagine that for want of a iiotarj r , the mar- 
riage cannot take place? The saying goes, you know, that 
the abbey does not stand idle for want of a monk." 

"Mademoiselle," resumed the great citizen, "you will 
do me the justice to admit that neither I nor my wife has 
ever tried to influence your decisions. We allowed the 
young people to fall in love with each other, without 
considering particularly what their attachment might lead 
to—" 

"To stuffing their heads with nonsense," interrupted the 
old maid; "that is what love leads to, and that is why 1 
have always done without it." 

"But what you say," continued Phellion, "is especially 
true about my poor son, for, despite the lofty occupations 
with which he has tried to displace his sorrow, he is so 
thoroughly overcome by it that this morning, in the face 
of his recent triumph, he spoke to me about a journey round 
the world, which would keep him absent for at least three 
years, even if he should escape the perils of such a long 
expedition." 

"So much the better," answered Brigitte. "It seems to 
me not a bad idea; he will come back quite recovered, and 
with three or four more stars." 

"One is enough for us," said Phellion, with redoubled 
solemnity, "and I am taking advantage of his discovery, 
which has lifted his name to such a high place in the world 
of science, to venture to say to you pointblank: I am here, 
Mademoiselle, to ask on behalf of my son Felix Phellion, 



384 BALZAC'S WORKS 

who loves and is beloved, for the hand of Mademoiselle 
Celeste Colleville." 

"But, my dear man, it is too late. You know that we 
are positively pledged to la'Peyrade. " 

"It is never too late for well doing, as the saying goes, 
and yesterday it would have been too soon for me to speak. 
My son could not then have said, in offer of compensa- 
tion for the difference in the fortunes: "Although Celeste 
has, through your generosity, a marriage portion which far 
exceeds mine, I have the honor to be a member of the Royal 
Order of the Legion of Honor, and shall, in all probability, 
shortly be a member of the Royal Academy of Science, one 
of the five branches of the Institute of France.' 

"No doubt," said Brigitte, "this makes Felix a very 
pretty match, but we have promised Celeste to la Peyrade. 
Their names are already posted at the municipal office, and 
under ordinary circumstances the contract would have been 
signed. He is working for Thuillier's election, which he 
has already got well under way, and we have money in- 
vested in a newspaper in which he is concerned. So, you 
see, we could not break our faith with him, even if we 
wanted to." 

"Mademoiselle, I feel in no way humiliated by the fruit- 
less effort I have just made. I do not even ask you to 
keep it secret, for I shall be the first to mention it to all 
our friends and acquaintances." 

''Mention it to anybody you like, my good man," re- 
plied Brigitte in a sour tone. "Do you think because your 
son has discovered a star— if he really did discover it, 
and not the old man who was rewarded by the government 
—do you think that is any reason why he ought to marry 
a daughter of the King of France?" 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 385 

Phellion rose. 

"Let that suffice. I might answer you, with due defer- 
ence to the Thuilliers, that to quote the Orleans as an illus- 
tration seems to me a slight exaggeration. But I am not in 
favor of acerbity in conversation, and will therefore with- 
draw, begging you to accept the assurance of my humble 
respects." 

This day, which had begun so badly for Brigitte, was 
undoubtedly one of the busiest and stormiest of the present 
tale. To give an exact record of it, we must begin at six 
o'clock in the morning, when we see Madame Thuillier 
going to the Madeleine Church, to hear the Abbe" Gondrin's 
Mass, and then to draw near to the Holy Table, where pious 
souls never fail to rind refreshment and sustenance when 
bent on some great enterprise. 

At eight, we see Minard the father arriving at the young 
priest's, in accordance with permission received the day be- 
fore. He came to pour his paternal griefs into the bosom 
of the able and conciliatory casuist. The Abbe Gondrin 
gently reproved him for giving his son a profession which, 
while conferring a title that points to a strenuous life, is a 
cloak for idleness and all manner of folly. Barristers -with- 
out briefs and physicians without patients are, when im- 
pecunious, the nursery of political disturbances and revolt; 
when, on the other hand, they are rich, they imitate the 
young men of the aristocracy, who of all the ancient privi- 
leges have kept none but the dolce far niente, and who devote 
almost the entire leisure of an empty, purposeless career to 
the cultivation of horse-racing and actresses. The Abbe" 
was of opinion that Minard senior should try to remedy 
matters at a sacrifice to himself: in allotting a dowry to 
the siren, and marrying her off, morality would be doubly 

(Q)-Vol. 16 



386 BALZAC'S WORKS 

vindicated. However, the young priest evinced no inclina- 
tion to take any personal steps: he was too young for a 
diplomatic negotiation of this kind, where scandal might 
so easily slip in by the side of kindness. As the girl had 
a mother, Minard could make the necessary arrangements 
himself. 

About noon, Madame Thuillier and Celeste came to see 
the clergyman. The poor child wanted to hear the sequel 
to the words in which the eloquent young priest had fore- 
shadowed Felix's salvation at Brigitte's house the night 
before. It seemed strange to the fair little theologian that, 
without being given to religious practices, one could possi- 
bly find grace before Heaven, since the anathema was so 
plain: "Outside of the Church there is no salvation." 

"My dear child," the Abbe - consoled her, "you must 
understand those words more perfectly which seem so in- 
exorable. They are rather words of comfort to those who 
have the felicity of living in the lap of our Holy Mother 
Church than a curse directed against those who are so un- 
fortunate as to be outside her pale. God sees into the bot- 
tom of all hearts, and knows His elect, and so great are the 
treasures of His goodness that no one can fathom its wealth 
and munificence. Who should dare to say to God, to the 
Infinite One, 'Thou shalt be great and forgiving to this ex- 
tent or that. 1 Our Saviour forgave the erring Magdalene, 
and on the Tree of Torture promised life eternal to the 
penitent thief, thus showing that His will shall prevail, not 
according to human judgment, but as He ordains in His 
infinite wisdom and mercy." 

"Oh!" cried Celeste, "and to think this knowledge has 
come to me so late! I had the choice between Monsieur 
Felix Phellion and Monsieur la Peyrade, and I was afraid 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 387 

to follow the voice of my heart! Oh, Monsieur l'Abb£, 
could you not talk to my mother? You are so respected 
by every one!" 

"That is impossible, my child. If I were Madame Colle- 
ville's spiritual adviser, I might make the attempt, but we 
are so often accused of ill-advised interference in family 
affairs. You may be sure that my unauthorized and unso- 
licited intervention would do more harm than good. You 
yourself, and those who love you," he added, glancing at 
Madame Thuillier, "must see whether the arrangements, 
though rather far advanced, cannot somehow be modified 
in the direction of your wishes." 

As the priest was finishing his sentence, his old house- 
keeper came in, to see if he would receive Monsieur Felix 
P hellion. 

"Go out this way," said the Abbe" hurriedly, leading his 
two parishioners to the entrance of a private corridor. 

"Monsieur l'Abbe," said Felix to the young priest, as 
soon as they were face to face, "I have heard of the kind 
manner in which you spoke of me yesterday in Monsieur 
Thuillier's house, and I should have hastened to express 
my gratitude, even if another matter had not brought me 

here." 

The Abbe Gondrin waived the usual formalities of intro- 
duction, in order to find out how he could be useful. 

"With intentions I believe to have been charitable," 
answered the young professor, '-some one talked to yon 
yesterday about the state of my soul. Those who testify 
such familiarity with it are better acquainted with my inner 
self than I am, as for some days past my spirit has been 
strangely and powerfully stirred. I have never doubted 
the existence of God, but, on the contrary, from communing 



388 BALZAC'S WORKS 

with the infinitude where my mind was searching one of His 
creations, I seem to have gained a less vague and a closer 
knowledge of Him, and I am now asking myself whether an 
upright and honest life is the only worship I ought to lay at 
His feet. Nevertheless, very many objections occur to me 
witli regard to the religion whose minister you are, and 
while being sensible to the beauty of its exterior forms, 
my reason warns me against many of its rules and doc- 
trines. 1 am perhaps paying very dearly for my indiffer- 
ence to the right solution of my doubts; possibly it may 
cost me my life's happiness. But I am determined to get 
to the bottom of them. Nobody is better able than you, 
Monsieur l'Abbe, to help me. I will therefore ask you to 
advise and enlighten me, to answer my questions, and to 
tell me what books to read. The soul that appeals to you 
is sorely afflicted. Is that not a fitting preparation for 
receiving the good seed of your exhortations?" 

The Abbe stated what a pleasure it would be to him, 
notwithstanding his own modest qualifications, to set the 
young professor's scruples at rest, and after asking him for 
his friendship, enjoined upon him the reading of Pascal's 
"Thoughts," the most helpful of all books. A natural 
affinity would declare itself between Felix and that 
great author, because of their common interest in 
geometry. 

While this scene was in progress, Brigitte, mounted on 
a chair, with feather-brush in hand, was dusting a shelf in 
the cupboard where she was arraying her library of plates, 
dishes, and jugs, when she was accosted by Flavie — "Bri- 
gitte, as soon as you have finished, you will do well to call 
on us, or else you must let me send Celeste to you. I think 
she is inclined to try some of her nonsense on us." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 389 

"How so?" asked Brigitte, without pausing in her 
dusting. 

"I believe that she and Madame Thuillier went to see 
the Abbe' Gondrin this morning, and here she comes back 
and tells me a lot of stuff about Felix Phellion — talks of 
him as though he were a god. You understand that to 
refuse la Peyrade is only one step further on." 

"I never did want that meddling priest invited; it was 
you who insisted he should be." 

"But," urged Flavie, "it was the proper thing to do." 

"I don't care a fig for the proprieties. He is a phrase- 
monger, and says nothing but what is out of place. Send 
Celeste to me, I will attend to her — " 

Brigitte was interrupted by the visit of the head clerk of 
the new notary who — Dupuis having defaulted — was to draw 
up the marriage contract. .Regardless of her untidy appear- 
ance, the old maid ordered the clerk to be called in, but 
made him the concession of descending from her perch. 

"Monsieur Thuillier, " said the clerk, "was at our office 
this morning to speak to my chief about the particulars of 
the contract he was intrusting us with. But before putting 
down the terms in writing, it is our custom to get a verbal 
declaration from the prospective donors of the marriage por- 
tion. Thus, Monsieur Thuillier told us that he would settle 
the reversion of the house he was living in — which is this 
one, I presume — on the bride." 

"Yes," said Brigitte, "that is right. I am giving her 
an outright annuity of three thousand francs a year, derived 
from three per cent government bonds." 

"I see, here it is," confirmed the clerk by his notebook: 
"Mademoiselle Brigitte Thuillier, three thousand francs a 
year. Now, there is Madame Celeste Thuillier, wife of 



390 BALZAC'S WORKS 

Louis-Jerome Thuillier, who giv.es six thousand francs a 
year in the same way, and settles a further six thousand 
in reversion." 

"That is as good as if the notary had passed it, but since 
it is your way of doing things, you can, if you so desire, 
be taken to my sister-in-law." 

The lawyer's clerk was shown into Madame Thuillier's 
room at Brigitte's behest, but he speedily returned, saying 
there must be some misunderstanding, for the lady was not 
willing to make any settlement at all. 

"This is too much of a good thing!" said Mademoiselle 
Thuillier. "Come with me, sir." 

And she burst like a whirlwind into the other woman's 
room, whom she found all pale and trembling. 

"What is this you have been saying to Monsieur about 
settling nothing on Celeste?" 

"Quite right," was the rebellious answer, delivered in a 
quavering voice. "I intend to give nothing." 

"Then your intentions," said Brigitte, red with wrath, 
"have changed entirely?" 

"I have stated my intentions," was the rebel's only 
reply. 

"You will at least give your reason?" 

"The marriage does not suit me." 

"Indeed! And since when?" 

"It is needless for this gentleman to listen to our dis- 
cussion, as it will not figure in the contract," observed 
Madame Thuillier. 

"No wonder you are ashamed," said Brigitte, "for you 
are not showing in a very favorable light. — Monsieur," 
turning to the clerk, "is it not easier to make erasures in 
the contract than to add to it?" 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 391 

The clerk bowed in assent. 

"Leave the document as it stands. If Madame remains 
of the same opinion, there will be time enough to cancel a 
few clauses." 

He saluted the ladies and went away. 

When the sisters-in-law were left together, Brisritte 
began — "Come now, have you lost your head? What is 
this whim that has come over you?" 

"It is not a whim, it is a very firm determination." 

"Which you have been buying from your dear Abbe 
Gondrin. You do not dare to tell me that you have not 
just come from there with Celeste!" 

"It is quite true that Celeste and I saw our spiritual 
adviser this morning, but I did not say a word to him on 
the subject." 

"Indeed! So it is in your empty little head that this Fire- 
cracker was manufactured?" 

"Yes; for, as I told you yesterday, I think Celeste might 
make a more suitable match, and I have no idea of impover- 
ishing myself in favor of a marriage I do not approve." 

"Which you do not approve? Ah, then your ladyship's 
opinion is to be asked!" 

"I know very well," said Madame Thuillier, "that I 
have never counted for anything in this house. I have 
been reconciled to that for some time, but when the happi- 
ness is threatened of a child that I look upon as my own — " 

"A child!" exclaimed Brigitte. "You were too stupid 
to have one yourself !" 

"Sister," said Madame Thuillier, with grave dignity, -r 
took the Sacrament this morning, and there arc things that 
I must not hear to-day." 

"The good-for-nothing! The idle hussy! Cannot oven 



392 BALZAC'S WORKS 

pick up her handkerchief, and wants to be the mistress in 
the house!'" 

"I have so little desire to be mistress here that last night 
I allowed myself to be silenced, after merely trying to say a 
few words; but I am mistress of my own property, and as I 
think that one day Celeste will be a very unhappy woman, 
I shall keep it, so as to have it at my disposal at the proper 
time and occasion." 

"How kind of you!" sneered the other. "Your own 

property!" 

"Certainly. The property I inherited from my father 
and mother, and which I brought Monsieur Thuillier in 
marriage." 

"And who put that money to use? Who made it pro- 
duce twelve thousand francs a year ? " 

"I have never asked you to account for any of it," 
quietly replied Madame Thuillier. "Had it all been lost 
in the investments you chose to make, I should not have 
uttered a word of complaint; but they were profitable, and 
therefore it is only right that I should reap the benefits. In 
any case, I am not doing this for my own good." 

"Very likely, because, at the rate you are going, it is by 
no means certain that we shall be under the same roof much 
longer." 

"Do you think Monsieur Thuillier would send me away? 
That could not be done without good reason, and, thank 
God, as a wife he has never been able to find fault with me." 

"Viper, hypocrite, heartless creature!" shrieked Brigitte, 
her arguments being exhausted. 

"Sister, you are in my room," was. Madame Thuillier's 
gentle reproof. 

"Get out of it then, you miserable doll!" howled the 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 393 

infuriated woman, in a paroxysm of rage. "It is all I can 
do to keep myself from — " 

And slie made a gesture which was at once an insult 
and a threat. Madame Thuillier rose to go. 

"No, you shall not go!" cried Brigitte, forcing her into 
a chair. "Until Thuillier has heard about this, jou shall 
remain locked up in here!" 

When Brigitte, with a flaming face, reappeared in the 
room where she had left Madame Colleville, she found her 
brother there, who was radiant with delight. 

"My dear," said he to the shrew, whose agitation he did 
not notice, "everything is going beautifully. The con- 
spiracy of silence has stopped. The 'National 1 and the 
'Carlist Journal' reprint one of our articles, and there is a 
little attack in one of the ministerial sheets." 

"That may be, but everything is not going beautifully 
here," answered Brigitte; "and, in fact, if it continues I 
shall leave the shop!" 

•Who has been offending you?" asked her brother. 

"That insolent wife of yours, who has just made a great 
scene! I am all shaken up still." 

"My wife make a scene? Then it is the first time in her 
life." 

1 'There is a first time for everything, and if you do not 

see about this — " 

"But what was the scene about?" 

"Her ladyship does not want la Peyrade for her god- 
daughter, and, from spite at not being able to prevent the 
marriage, says she will make no settlement." 

"Come, be calm," said Thuillier, quite composedly. "I 
will go and smooth the whole affair out." 

"You, Flavie," said Brigitte, while Thuillier was with 



894 BALZAC'S WORKS 

his wife, "will be kind enough to go down and speak to 
Mademoiselle Celeste. I did not wish to see her myself 
just now, for if she contradicted me I should be capable of 
boxing her ears. You can tell her that I do not like con- 
spiracies, that she was left a free choice between Monsieur 
la Peyrade and Monsieur Phellion, that she refused the 
latter, and that everything, was arranged on that basis, and 
if she does not want to see herself reduced to the dowry you 
can give her, which a bank messenger could easily carry in 
his waistcoat pocket — " 

"Really, my dear Brigitte," interrupted Flavie, bristling 
up under this impertinent language, "you need not have 
reminded us of our poverty in this way. After all, we 
have never asked you for anything; we always pay our 
rent punctually; and, to say no more, Monsieur Felix Phel- 
lion would gladly take Celeste with as much as a bank 
messenger could carry in his pocket." 

"Oh, then you are in the plot too! Go and get your 
Felix then!" screamed Brigitte. "I know very well, my 
good woman, that this marriage was never much to your 
taste! It is so unpleasant to be no more than a mother-in- 
law to one's daughter's husband!" 

Flavie had recovered her temper, which for a moment 
was failing her, and, without answering the innuendo, re- 
stricted herself to a shrug of the shoulders. 

Thuillier now came back, but without his former happy 
expression. 

"My dear girl," he said to his sister, "you have a very 
good heart, of course, but, on the other hand, you some- 
times are very violent!" 

"Oh," the old maid flared up, "you are going to take 
me to task, too, are you?" 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 395 

"I have nothing to reproach you with seriously, and I 
have been giving my wife a good dressing down; still, one 
must keep within the bounds of politeness." 

"What is this rubbish about politeness? Have I been 
deficient in politeness?" 

"Well, my dear, you raised your hand against your 
sister." 

"What? Do you mean to say that I raised my hand 
against that silly idiot? Really, that's a good one!" 

"And besides," continued Thuillier, "one does not put 
people of her age in prison." 

"Did I put your wife in prison?" 

"You can hardly deny it, when I found the door of her 
room double-locked." 

"No wonder, if I turned the key accidentally in my 
anger at the infamous abuse she showered on me!" 

"Come, come," said Thuillier, "this sort of behavior 
will not do for people in our class." 

"Oh, then I am in the wrong, am I? Very well, my 
dear boy, you shall remember this day, and you shall see 
how your house gets on after I have washed my hands 
of it." 

"You will always wash your hands in it, you mean," 
answered her brother. "Housekeeping is your very life, and 
you would be the first to regret it." 

"We shall see about, that! After twenty years of hard 
work, to think of being treated like dirt!" And the old 
maid flung out of the room, slamming the door behind her. 

Almost at the same time the outer door-bell rang. 

"La Peyrade, most probably," said Thuillier with a 
smile. 

It was in effect the Provencal, to whom the last speaker 



896 BALZAC'S WORKS 

said — "I a m glad to see you, old fellow, for the house is in 
an uproar on your account. There is a revolution going on 
here, and you must try to restore peace and quiet with 
your gilded tongue." 

He then related to the barrister all the circumstances of 
the civil war which had just broken out. Theodose ad- 
dressed himself to Madame Colleville — "At this stage, I 
think I can without impropriety ask for an interview of a 
few minutes with Mademoiselle Celeste." Here again the 
Provencal showed his usual subtlety. He understood per- 
fectly that in the mission of pacification devolving upon 
him, Celeste Colleville was the key of the situation. 

"I will send for her," said Flavie, "and you shall be 
left alone with her." 

As soon as the two young people were in private, la Pey- 
rade began — "Mademoiselle, I think I am neither indiscreet 
nor impatient in begging you to tell me what decision you 
have come to." 

"Well, Monsieur," answered Celeste, "since you ask me 
so frankly, I must tell you what you already know, which 
is, that having been brought up with Monsieur Felix Phel- 
lion, and having known him much longer than I have known 
you, the idea of marrying — always very alarming to a 
young girl — is less terrifying with him than with any one 
else." 

"There was a time when you had a choice, and when 
you were hesitating." 

"Very true, but just then there was a difference of opin- 
ion between us about religion." 

"And does that obstacle no longer exist?" 

"It has almost vanished. I am in the habit ol giving 
way to people better informed and more enlightened than 1 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 397 

am, and you yourself, Monsieur, heard how the Abbe* Gon- 
drin spoke yesterday." 

"God forbid, " replied la Peyrade, "that I should be so 
bold as to question the judgment of so distinguished a man! 
Taking it for granted, however, that Monsieur Phellion 
might fully satisfy you eventually on the point of religion, 
have you thought of the great change that has come into his 
life? I have some fear that the modesty and humility that 
were among the principal charms of his character may give 
way to the self-consciousness and self-assurance which de- 
velop into selfishness, and at last dry up the spring of gener- 
ous sentiment. And then, Mademoiselle, you can scarcely 
but acknowledge that he who has discovered one world 
wants to discover another. Do you wish to challenge the 
whole heavenly firmament in rivalry ?" 

"You are pleading your case very cleverly," smiled 
Celeste, "and, as a barrister, Ithink you would be quite 
as troublesome a husband as Monsieur Phellion the astron- 



omer." 



"Mademoiselle," resumed the Provencal, "to speak seri- 
ously, I think your heart is in the right place, and you are 
capable of very fine feeling. Well, then, do you know what 
has happened to Monsieur Phellion? He has lost nothing 
by his devotion to his old master; his pious deception in 
now generally known; he is to receive due credit for his 
discovery, and if I can believe Monsieur Minard, whom 1 
met a moment ago, the young man is to be made a knight 
of the Legion of Honor at once, and a member of the 
Academy of Science very soon. If I were a woman. I 
should certainly be displeased, if, at the very instant 
when I wanted to bestow my favor upon a man, such an 
avalanche of good fortune came down upon him. I 



398 BALZAC'S WORKS 

should be afraid of being accused of worshipping the 
rising sun." 

"Oh!" she ejaculated, "you do not suspect me of any- 
thing so base!" 

"I? By no means. I was asserting just the contrary, if 
you remember; but the world is so hasty and so unjust, and 
at the same time so sweeping in its conclusions!" 

Observing that he had aroused some apprehension in the 
girl, who remained silent, he continued — "But to come to a 
much more serious phase of your situation, and which is not 
a purely personal matter, do you know that at this very 
time, and in this very house, you are the unconscious cause 
of the most distressing and regrettable occurrences?" 

"I, Monsieur?" exclaimed Celeste, with mingled sur- 
prise and horror. 

"Yes, you have turned your godmother, through her 
extreme affection for you, into a different woman. For the 
first time in her life she is thinking for herself, and has 
declared that she will contribute nothing whatever to your 
dowry." 

"But I beseech you to believe that this idea of my god- 
mother's is quite new to me." 

"I am aware of that, and it would be of no great conse- 
quence if Mademoiselle Brigitte had not taken her sister-in- 
law's view as an insult, having always found her so ame- 
nable to suggestion. The most violent scenes have taken 
place. Between the hammer and the anvil, Thuillier was 
powerless to do anything. In fact, without intending to do 
so, he aggravated things, and they are now at such a pitch, 
that if you chose to brave Mademoiselle Thuillier's dreadful 
anger, and went to her room, you would see her packing up 
her trunks. She is going to leave the house." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 399 

"Monsieur, what are you saying?" cried Celeste in 
dismay. 

"The exact truth, which can easily be verified by any 
of the servants. I acknowledge that such a state of affairs 
hardly seems credible." 

"But it is impossible!" cried the poor child, whose per- 
turbation increased with every word from the wily Pro- 
vencal. "How can I be the cause of such a terrible 
misfortune ?" 

"That is to say that you do not want to be, for the 
mischief is done, and Heaven grant that it may not be 
irretrievable." 

"But, my God! What am I to do?" said Celeste, 
wringing her hands. 

"Sacrifice yourself, I should answer at once, if it were 
not that in the present circumstances the part of the victim, 
at once enviable and painful, were not allotted to myself." 

"Monsieur de la Peyrade," said Celeste, "you interpret 
the resistance which I have offered, and which I have ex- 
pressed very wrongly. I may have a preference, but I 
never thought of myself as a victim. Whenever it is 
necessary to secure peace in this house, and allay the 
trouble I have stirred up, by stifling that preference. I 
shall do so without repugnance, and even cheerfully. My 
godmother is a second mother to me, and for a mother what 
would one not do ?" 

The case was so pathetic, and Celeste made Buch a 
charmingly innocent display of the depth of her feelings 
and of her readiness to be sacrificed, that la Peyrade, if he 
had had any heart, would have been disgusted with himself. 
But Celeste was only a stepping-stone to him, and, provided 
that a ladder is carrying your weight, and taking you higher 



400 BALZAC'S WORKS 

up, why stop to consider whether it is an enthusiastic ladder? 
They therefore agreed that Celeste should go to her god- 
mother, and should persuade her that she was in error in 
supposing la Peyrade ever to have been the object of the 
girl's aversion. Madame Thuillier's opposition being over- 
come, the rest would be easy. The barrister undertook to 
establish concord between the two sisters-in-law; and, as 
may readily be imagined, he found the right language to 
show the simple child a future in which, by the force of 
love and devotion, he would compensate her for all the 
moral anguish she was now suffering. 

And his expectation was realized. A few kind words 
and embraces — poor Celeste paying the indemnity of the 
war — ended the quarrel. 

During the evening Minard was announced. 

"My dear friends," said he, as he came in, "I have 
come to make a little disclosure to you, which will probably 
occasion you some surprise, and it will be a lesson to 
us all when next we think of admitting strangers to our 
house." 
-"How so?" asked Brigitte, inquisitively. 

"That Hungarian you were so much in love with, that 
Countess — Madame Torna de Grodollo — " 

"Well?" 

"Well, she was a swindler, and for two months you were 
pampering the most impudent of courtesans." 

"Who told you such nonsense?" asked Brigitte, unwill- 
ing to admit that she had been duped. 

"It is no nonsense at all," answered the mayor. "I 
satisfied myself by ocular demonstration. I have seen Ma- 
dame de Grodollo, whose real name is Madame Kormorn, 
and who is no more a Countess than you or Madame Colle- 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 401 

ville, in the society of the creature on whom my son spends 
his money and time. Do you insist on further details?" 

"Yes," said Brigitte, still incredulous, "an explanation 
is always welcome." 

"The day of your dinner," said Minard, "while you 
were waiting for me, I went to the Folies-Dramatiques, the 
snare of my son Julien, where this woman was to make her 
first appearance. I wanted to make sure whether the young 
rascal, who, pretending to be ill, left the house directly after 
our departure, was at the theatre. I did not see him among 
the audience, but as the curtain went up, I saw my boy, the 
shame of my old age, talking in the most familiar manner 
possible with a fireman in the wings, and so completely ex- 
posed to view from the front that some vulgar person in the 
pit called out: 'Get back into your kennel, puppy I ' Fancy 
the joy of my paternal heart at hearing this pleasing ad- 
monition. I went to this dangerous young woman's mother, 
and told her to put a stop to a connection which no doubt 
grieved her as much as it did me. I said I was prepared to 
make a sacrifice, that I would pay fifteen hundred francs 
yearly, or a lump sum of thirty thousand francs, in the 
shape of a dowry for her daughter, adding that she might 
as well give up my son, as I intended to cut off all supplies. 
'You don't say so?' replied the mother. 'Why, it so h 
pens that a copying clerk in the court of the twelfth district 
once had an eye on Olympe, and just now is at her again. 
The only thing I am afraid of is the bad advice of a Pole 
called Madame Kormorn. My daughter is quite foolish 
about her, and allows her to manage her; but perhaps if 
you could talk to her, and could let her see how much 
money there was in it, she might play into our hands. 5 
was here just now, and if you like I will calJ her, and tell 



402 BALZAC'S WORKS 

her, without mentioning your name, that a gentleman wants 
to see her.' Judge of my surprise when I found myself 
confronting your Madame de Godollo, who, as soon as she 
had set eyes upon me, ran away, laughing like mad!" 

"Are you quite sure that it was she?" inquired Brigitte, 
"if you only caught a glimpse of her — " 

The sly Provencal was not the man to miss his oppor- 
tunity. 

"His worship the mayor is not mistaken," he declared 
authoritatively. 

"So you know her too, do you?" said Mademoiselle 
Thuillier. "And you allowed us to rub elbows with such 
baggage!" 

"Quite the contrary," answered la Peyrade, "I got rid of 
her for you without saying anything, and without creating 
scandal. You remember how suddenly she vanished. It 
was I who, after finding out what she was, gave her two 
days' notice to clear the premises, threatening, in case she 
should decline, to inform you of the truth." 

"My dear friend," said Thuillier, warmly shaking the 
barrister's hand, "you acted with wisdom and energy. We 
owe you another obligation." 

About half-past one the next day, la Peyrade, Thuillier, 
Colleville, Madame Thuillier, and Celeste were met in the 
drawing-room, in readiness for the signing of the marriage 
settlements. They were commenting upon the lateness of 
Flavie and Brigitte, who were still due, when the porter 
came in, and handed Thuillier a sealed package, which had 
just been given him, addressed — "Monsieur Thuillier, 
Director of the 'Echo de la Bievre.' Immediate." 

He opened the envelope at once, and took out a number 
of a ministerial organ, which had shown its want of courtesy 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 40,°, 

and its hostility to the new management by refusing the 
"exchange" which periodical sheets are usually well enough 
pleased to make, sending paper for paper. Puzzled at this 
missive being delivered at his house, instead of at the office 
of the "Echo," and that with palpably studied premedita- 
tion, Thuillier hastily unfolded the issue received, and with 
conceivable agitation read the following article, to which his 
attention was drawn by a surrounding border of red ink: 

"An obscure newspaper was about to die a natural 
death, when an attempt to galvanize it was made by an 
individual of new-fledged ambitions. His design is to use 
it as a footstool for the purpose of climbing from a munici- 
pal post to the envied deputy's chair. Happily, this trans- 
parent scheme is condemned to failure. The electors will 
not allow themselves to be caught in the meshes of this 
windy sheet, and at the proper time, if ridicule should not 
have settled the claims of this absurd candidate, we shall 
demonstrate to our aspirant for parliamentary honors that 
it is not sufficient to buy a second-hand newspaper, and 
engage a hack to turn the horrible jargon of his artii 
and pamphlets into French. For to-day, we content our- 
selves with this little hint, but our readers may rest assured 
that we shall keep them informed as to all the developments 
of this electoral farce, if, indeed, its instigator has the mis- 
placed courage to continue it." 

Thuillier read this declaration of war over twice, with 
anything but an impassive countenance, after which, baking 
la Peyrade aside, he said to him— "Here, this is a serious 

affair." 

The Provencal read the article, and merely observed, 

"Well?" 



404 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"What do you mean by 'well'?" asked the would-be 
deputy. 

' 'I mean I want to know what there is so serious about this. ' ' 

"Serious? Why, the article is most plainly calculated 
to do me the greatest injury." 

"Do you suspect some virtuous Cenzet is throwing a 
stick between your legs, from motives of revenge?" 

"Whether it is Cerizet, or any one else who wrote this 
diatribe, whoever did it is an impudent scoundrel," said 
Thuillier excitedly, "and I shall follow the thing up!" 

"I," answered the other, "should take no notice of it. 
You are neither named nor described, though it is obvious 
enough that it is you who are being attacked. We must 
let our enemy compromise himself a little further, and at 
the right moment we will rap him over the knuckles." 

"Not at all!" exclaimed Thuillier. "I cannot possibly 
remain under the stigma of such an insult!" 

"The deuce! How thin-skinned you are! You ought 
to remember, my dear boy, that you are a politician and 
a journalist; you ought to be more hardened." 

"It is my principle not to allow people to walk on my 
toes. Besides, the author of the article announces his in- 
tention of repeating the offence. His impertinence must 
be stopped at once. I shall appeal to the law — " 

"Which will be of no avail. You have no case. Nei- 
ther your name nor the paper's name has been mentioned. 
But we will talk it over again, for here comes your sister, 
and she would think all was lost if we let her know of this 
little impediment." 

As Brigitte and Flavie came in, Colleville exclaimed, 
"Full up!" imitating the Parisian omnibus conductor's 
war-cry. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 405 

"Heavens! Colleville, how vulgar you are!" said the 
late-comer, speedily casting a stone into her neighbor's 
garden, lest one should be cast into hers. "Are we all 
ready?" she added, buttoning her cape before the glass. 
"What time is it? We do not want to arrive too early, 
like provincials." 

"It is ten minutes to two," answered Colleville. "My 
watch goes like the Tuileries clock." 

"We can start, then," said Brigitte. "It will take us 
just that long to get to the Rue Caumartin. Josephine," 
she called out from the drawing-room door, "we dine at 
six, so govern yourself accordingly, and put the turkey on 
the spit at the right time. Try not to burn it, as you did 
the other day. — But what is this?" shutting the door ab- 
ruptly, which she had been holding ajar. "Some tiresome 
caller, I suppose. I hope Henri will have the sense to say 
we are all out." 

Nothing of the sort happened, however, since Henri 
came to say that an old gentleman with a rosette in his 
buttonhole, and very aristocratic, asked to be admitted 
on urgent business. 

"Why didn't you tell him no one was at home?" 

"I should have, if Mademoiselle had not opened the 
drawing-room door so that Monsieur could see the whole 
family together." 

' 'Of course. Y ou are always right, ' ' snapped the old maid. 

"What answer am I to give?" asked the servant. 

"You may tell the gentleman," said Thuillier, "that 
I am exceedingly sorry not to be able to see him, as I 
am being awaited at the notary's to sign a marriage con- 
tract, and that if he will come back in about two hours' 
time—" 



406. BALZAC'S WORKS 

"I have told him all that already," replied Henri, "and 
he said that the contract was just what he had come to see 
you about, and that his visit concerned you more than it did 
himself." 

"Well, see him, and pack him off in double-quick time," 
said Brigitte. "That will be a shorter way than all this 
rigmarole with Henri, who is such a great orator." 

Had la Peyrade been consulted, he might perhaps not 
have come to the same conclusion, for he had already had 
more than one specimen of the occult influence working 
against his marriage, and the present visit roused evil fore- 
bodings in him. 

"Show him into my study," said Thuillier, taking his 
sister's advice; and, opening a door between the drawing- 
room and the room in which he was to receive the impor- 
tunate caller, he preceded him thither. 

Immediately, Brigitte adjusted her eye to the keyhole. 

"There is my dear old idiot of a brother asking the man 
to sit down, and at the back of the study, too; we shall not 
be able to hear a word of the conversation. ' ' 

La Peyrade meanwhile walked up and down the room, 
his disturbed state of mind concealed under a cloak of su- 
preme indifference. He even went up to the three women 
standing in a group, and paid Celeste a few compliments, 
which she met with the happy smile that lay in the spirit 
of her part. As for Colleville, he was killing time by con- 
cocting an anagram on the name "Echo de la Bievre. " 

"What a lot of snuff he takes!" said Brigitte, her eye 
still at the keyhole. "His gold snuff-box beats Minard's 
all to pieces. I never saw such a large one ! Oh, I dare- 
say it is only gilt," she added, by way of reflection. "But 
he is doing all. the talking, and Thuillier is sitting there as 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 407 

dumb as an oyster. So much the worse for them both. I 
am going straight in, to tell them that this is no way to 
keep ladies waiting." 

Her hand already on the door-knob, she heard Thuillier's 
companion speaking quite loudly, which made her peer in 
again. 

"He is getting up at last," she remarked, greatly pleased. 

But seeing, a moment later, that she had been mistaken, 
and that the old man had only left his chair for the purpose 
of continuing the conversation while pacing the room, she 
reverted to her former intention. She*"gave two imperious, 
sharp raps at the door, and then stalked resolutely into her 
brother's study. 

La Peyrade now also displayed the bad taste — excusable 
only through intense interest and curiosity — of taking a 
look at the proceedings through the keyhole. At first, he 
thought he recognized the little old man, whom, under the 
name of Commandeur, he had once seen at Madame de Go- 
dollo's. He then observed that Thuillier was addressing 
his sister with an impatience and an authoritative manner 
which in no wise coincided with his usual habits of defer- 
ence and submission. 

"It appears," said Brigitte, returning to the drawing- 
room, "that Thuillier is being very much entertained by 
that creature, for he ordered me quite abruptly to leave 
them alone, although the little man said very politely that 
they would soon be finished. Jerome impressed upon me 
that we were to be sure to wait for him. Since starting that 
newspaper, he has become unbearable; he behaves as 
though he could move the whole world with his little 
finger. ' ' 

"I am veiy much afraid that he is being caught by some 



408 BALZAC'S WORKS 

adventurer," said la Peyrade. "I could almost swear to 
having seen that little old man at Madame Kormorn's. He 
must be one of the gang." 

"Then you ought to have told me," Brigitte reproached 
him. "I would have asked him for news of the Countess, 
so as to show him that we knew all about his Hungarian." 

Just then a movement of chairs was heard and Brigitte 
ran back to the door. 

"Yes," whispered she, "he is going; Jerome is bowing 
him out of the room." 

As Thuillier was some little time coming back, Colleville 
had an opportunity to look out of the window, and seeing 
the old gentleman get into his handsome brougham, ex- 
claimed — "Scissors! what a gorgeous livery! He is a high- 
class villain, anyhow!" 

Thuillier at length came in. His face was anxious, and 
he spoke very gravely — "My dear la Peyrade, you never 
told us that there was another matrimonial affair occupy- 
ing your mind." 

"Yes, I told you that a very rich heiress had been pro- 
posed to me, but that my heart was here; that I did not 
intend to pursue the other match, to which, as you must 
therefore see, I gave very little consideration." 

"Well, now, I think you were wrong to take that offer 
so lightly." 

"What, is it you who, in the presence of these ladies, 
find fault with my fidelity to my first affections and to our 
long-standing pledges?" 

"My friend, the conversation I have just had was a most 
instructive one to me, and when you know all that I know, 
and other details besides, which concern you alone, and 
which will be confided to you, 1 think you will concur with 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 409 

my view. In any case, we do not go to the notary's to-day, 
that is certain, and as for you, your wisest course is to 
betake yourself to Monsieur du Portail's at once." 

"That name again! It haunts me like remorse!" cried 
la Peyrade. 

"Yes, go at once; he is expecting you, and it is an indis- 
pensable preliminary to any further steps. After seeing him, 
if you still persist in claiming Celeste's hand, we can con- 
tinue our original plan, but before your interview with him 
nothing will be done." 

"My dear brother," said Brigitte, "you have allowed 
yourself to be led by the nose by a sharper; the man is 
one of the Godollo lot." 

"Madame de Godollo," replied Thuillier, "is not quite 
what you think she is, and the best thing for every one in 
this house is never to say another word about her, either 
good or bad. As for la Peyrade, since this is not the first 
time such an invitation has come to him, I really fail to 
comprehend whj^ he hesitates going to see Monsieur du 
Portail." 

"Good heavens!" ejaculated Brigitte, "has the little 
man bewitched you entirely?" 

"I tell you that the little man is all he looks. He has 
seven medals, a magnificent carriage, and a pair of horses, 
and he told me a number of the most astonishing things." 

After seeing himself almost pushed out of the door, la 
Peyrade took his hat with an ill grace, and started for the 
place to which his destiny called him. Arrived at the Rue 
Honors-Chevalier, he was seized with a doubt. The dilapi- 
dated appearance of the house he was to enter made him 
fear that he had forgotten the number. It looked improba- 
ble to him that a personage of Monsieur du Portail's im- 
lR)— Vol. 16 



410 BALZAC'S WORKS 

portance should be so housed. It was therefore with some 
degree of diffidence that he made overtures to Sire Per- 
rache, the porter. But once in the antechamber of the 
apartment he was directed to, the respectability of Bruno, 
the old butler, and the affluent style of the furniture and 
fittings, fully answered his preconceptions. Ushered into 
the study without delay, his astonishment was by no means 
small when he found himself face to face with the alleged 
Commandeur, Madame de Grodollo's friend; the little old 
man, in fact, of whom he had caught a passing glimpse at 
the Thuilliers' not long before. 

"At last," said du Portail, rising to draw up a chair, 
"you have come, Mister Obstinate! You have taken a 
deal of persuasion!" 

"May I be favored, sir," said la Peyrade haughtily, 
without taking the proffered chair, "with some excuse for 
your interference in my private affairs ? I do not know you, 
and may add that the place where I once saw you has in- 
spired me with no especially keen desire to make your 
acquaintance." 

"And where did you see me?" 

"In the rooms of a notorious adventuress, who called 
herself Madame Torna, Countess de Grodollo." 

"Where consequently you, sir, were also in the habit of 
going, and from less disinterested motives than myself." 

"I have not come here," said Theodose, "for the purpose 
of bandying words. I am entitled, sir, to an explanation of 
your conduct in general to me. I must, therefore, beg you 
not to wander from the point for the sake of making jokes, 
which I am not in the least disposed to enter into." 

"Very well," said du Portail, "sit down. For I am not 
disposed to dislocate my neck by talking up to you." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 411 

The suggestion was not at all unreasonable, and was 
made in a tone to convince la Peyrade that the old gentle- 
man would not prove at all susceptible to fine airs. So 
the barrister made up his mind to defer to his host's wish, 
though he took care to acquiesce with a reluctance verg- 
ing upon impoliteness. 

"Monsieur Cerizet," said Monsieur du Portail, "a man 
of good position in the world, and who has the honor of 
being one of jour friends — ■" 

"I see the man no longer," said la Pejrade sharply, 
fully perceiving the old man's malicious insinuation. 

"At any rate, there was a time when you occasionally 
did see him — at the Eocher de Cancale, for instance. It 
was there that the good Monsieur Cerizet was commissioned 
to sound you upon a marriage — " 

"Which I refused," interrupted Theodose, "and which 
I now refuse more emphatically than ever." 

"Ah, yes, that is just the question," resumed the other. 
"I believe, nevertheless, that you will accept, and it is to 
talk about this matter with you that 1 have so long desired 
to meet you." 

"But what about the lunatic you are throwing at my 
head? What is she to you? She is neither your daughter 
nor a relative, I presume, for if she were you would be 
more exacting in your hunt for a husband." 

"The girl is a daughter of a friend of mirfe. She* lost 
her father more than ten years ago, since which time I have* 
taken care of her, and bestowed all the attention on her 
which her painful state demands. Her fortune, to which I 
have considerably added, will,, in conjunction with my own, 
which she will inherit, make her a very desirable match. I 
know you are not opposed to handsome dowries, as you 



412 BALZAC'S WORKS 

look for them in the meanest places — in such houses as the 
Thuilliers', for example, or, to use jour own expression, in 
that of adventuresses whom you scarcely know. I hence 
assumed you might not be averse to taking one from me, 
seeing that my girl's disease has been declared quite curable 
by the doctors, while you will never cure Monsieur and 
Mademoiselle Thuillier of being a fool and a shrew respec- 
tively, any more than you can cure Madame Kormorn of 
her middling virtue and flighty ways." 

"It may suit me," answered la Peyrade, "to marry the 
goddaughter of a fool and a shrew, if I choose; or if I fall 
in love with a coquette, I may become her husband. But 
neither you, sir, understand! nor the cleverest, nor the 
mightiest, could make me marry the Queen of Sheba 
against my will." 

"It is for that very reason I shall appeal to your intelli- 
gence and good sense. The first point to be noted is that 
Celeste Colleville is lost to you definitely. I have just left 
Thuillier, after frightening him by drawing a picture of all 
the misfortunes he had already suffered, and would still 
suffer, unless he relinquished the notion of uniting his god- 
child to you. He knows now that it was I who undermined 
the Countess de Bruel's friendly efforts on his behalf, in the 
matter of the Cross; that I had his pamphlet seized; that I 
sent the Hungarian into his house, who tricked you all so 
cleverly; that at my instance the ministerial newspapers 
have begun an assault, which will grow more effective day 
by day, to say nothing of other machinery to be set work- 
ing, if need be, with the end of ruining his election. So, 
you see, my dear sir, not only will you miss Thuillier's 
gratitude for being his successful political agent, but you 
are a stumbling-block to his ambition. I have said enough 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 413 

to show you that your chances of getting into this family, 
who really never wanted you, have now utterly collapsed, 
and are reduced to nothing at all." 

"But who are you, you who had an object in accom- 
plishing all this?" demanded the barrister. 

"I will not answer you at the present, because you shall 
soon know who I am. But let us, if you please, continue 
the analysis of your life, which has come to an end to-day, 
but which 1 propose to renew to fame and glory. You are 
twenty-eight, and have but begun a career in which I forbid 
your taking another step. A few days more, and the barris- 
ters' association will meet, and their board of discipline will 
censure your conduct more or less severely as to the prop- 
erty you so amiably put into Thuillier's hands. Do not 
give way to any illusion; for being censured is almost 
equal to expulsion from the bar." 

"And it is to your kindness, no doubt," said la Pey- 
rade, "that I am indebted for these charming results!" 

"Which I am delighted with," rejoined du Portail; "for 
to tow you into port it was first necessary to cat away your 
rigging; otherwise you would have been sailing those mid- 
dle class puddles forever." 

Seeing that he was playing against such a strong oppo- 
nent, the adroit Provencal thought it best to modify his 
tone, and remarked, more reservedly — "Monsieur will at 
least allow me to postpone my grateful acknowledgments 
until further developments shall show me — •" 

"Here you are," da Portail went on, "at twenty-eight, 
without a sou, without a profession, with ordinary antece- 
dents, and acquaintances like Monsieur Dutocq and the 
bold Cerizet; you owe Mademoiselle Thuillier ten thousand 
francs, which you are conscientiously bound to pay back, 



414 BALZAC'S WORKS 

even if you had not pledged yourself to do so from vanity; 
to Madame Lambert you owe twenty-five thousand francs, 
which you naturally are in great haste to restore; finally, 
this marriage, your last hope, your harbor of safety, has 
just been closed to you. Between ourselves, if I have any- 
thing reasonable to propose to you, do you not think you 
ought to listen ?" 

"There will always be time enough for that, and I have 
every objection to assenting to your plans, however kind, 
without knowing what they are." 

"I ordered the subject of the marriage broached to you," 
resumed du Portail. "This marriage is in my mind closely 
connected with another scheme of life for you, in which 
there enters the principle, as it were, of hereditary duty. 
Do you know what your uncle was doing in Paris when 
you came to search him out in 1829 ? He was supposed to 
be a millionnaire by your family, and, dying suddenly, 
before you could reach him, did not even leave enough 
money for his funeral. He was buried in a pauper's grave." 

"Then you knew him?" 

"He was my dearest and oldest friend." 

"But at that rate," said la Peyrade eagerly, "the sum of 
one hundred louis, which came from an unknown hand 
during my early days in Paris — " 

"Came from myself in fact," answered du Portail. 
"Unluckily becoming involved in a complication of busi- 
ness, which you will understand better later on, I was not 
able to continue in my friendliness toward you, evoked by 
the memory of your uncle. This explains why I left you 
to ripen, like a medlar on your garret straw, to the maturity 
of misery which forced you into the hands of Dutocq and 
Cerizet." 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 415 

"I am none the less obliged to you, Monsieur," bowed 
la Peyrade; "and had I known who my generous, unknown 
patron was, you may believe that I would have lost no time 
in going to you and thanking } r ou." 

"A truce to compliments," said the other; "and, to 
come to the important part of this interview, what would 
you say if you were informed that this uncle, whose assist- 
ance and support you came to seek in Paris, was one of the 
agents of that occult power which is the theme of so many 
ridiculous fables and the subject of so much foolish 
prejudice?" 

"I do not quite understand," said la Peyrade, with 
anxious curiosity. "Might I beg you to particularize?" 

"Let us suppose, for instance," du Portail went on, 
"that your uncle were still alive, and said to you: 'My 
dear nephew, you are looking for fortune and power; you 
have the ambition to rise above the common crowd, to have 
a hand in all the great movements of your time; you want 
to find employment for your keen and active mind, which is 
full of resource and has a bent for intrigue; and you want 
to expend the powers of will and initiative which you have 
hitherto foolishly wasted upon the driest and toughest thing 
in the world, the middle class, in a much higher and hand- 
somer sphere. Very well, bow your head, my dear nephew, 
and come with me through a little door I will open to you. 
It will take you into a large house, not of good repute, but 
which is better than its name. Once you have crossed the 
threshold, you will stand up to the full height of your genius, 
if there is a single spark of it in you. Statesmen, and even 
kings, will tell you their most sacred thoughts; you will be 
their hidden right hand, and none of the joys that money 
and great place can yield a man will be beyond your reach.' 



416 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"But, Monsieur," objected la Peyrade, "without yet 
understanding you, I would observe that my uncle died 
so poor as to be buried under the auspices of public 
charity." 

"Your uncle was a man of rare ability, but his character 
had a frivolous side, which compromised his whole career. 
He was extravagant, pleasure-loving, and had no thought 
for the future." 

"Then, what encouragement can you offer me to follow 
in his footsteps?" 

"But supposing I myself, my dear young gentleman, 
should show you the way?" 

"You, sir!" said la Peyrade in amazement. 

"Yes, I, who was brought up by your uncle, and after- 
ward was his protector and Providence; I, whose power has 
been growing nearly every day, for something like a half 
century; I, who am rich, who see governments, as they 
tumble like card-houses one after another, come to me for 
security and sinews; I, who am the manager of a great pup- 
pet show, including columbines like Madame de Godollo; I, 
who to-morrow, if it were necessary for the success of one 
of my comedies or dramas, would appear before you wearing 
the Order of the Legion of Honor, or of the Garter, or of 
The Golden Fleece? Do you want to know why neither 
you nor I shall ever die of poison, and why, more fortunate 
than contemporary sovereigns, I can bequeath my sceptre to 
the successor of my own choice ? It is because, like your- 
self, my young friend, in spite of your southern tempera- 
ment, I am cool and calculating, because I never lost my 
time dangling about a door; because, when I was called 
upon to exhibit warmth, I never felt it but superficially, 
it is more than likely that you have heard of me. Well, 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 417 

for your benefit, I will open the window in the cloud that 
conceals me. Look at me, and look well; I have neither a 
cloven foot nor a tail at the end of my spine; quite the con- 
trary, I am one of the most harmless gentlemen of leisure in 
the Saint-Sulpice Quarter, where, I may say, I have been 
universally respected and esteemed for twenty- five years 
under the name of du Portail, whereas to you, with your 
kind permission, I shall be known as Corentin!" 

"Corentin!" cried la Peyrade, in surprise and alarm. 

"Yes, sir, and you perceive that, revealing the secret to 
you, I put my hand on you, and enlist you. Corentin, 'the 
greatest police agent of modern times,' as the author of an 
article in the 'Biography of Living Men,' says of me, in 
justice to whom I may remark that he knows nothing what- 
ever about my life." 

"Certainly, Monsieur," said la Peyrade, "I will keep 
your secret, but as to the place you are so kindly offering 
me under you — " 

"Appals you, or at least frightens you," quickly put in 
the ex-gentleman of leisure. "Before even examining into 
the thing, you are scared by a word. The po-o-olice! The 
secret po-o-olice! You would be ashamed, would you not, 
to share in the tremendous prejudice which brands that 
body?" 

"Assuredly it is a useful institution, but I do not think 
it has been slandered in every case. If its doings are quite 
honorable, why do its members live in hiding?" 

"Because all that threatens the safety of society," an- 
swered Corentin, "and which it is the mission of the po- 
lice to suppress, is prepared and plotted in the dark." 

"Monsieur," said la Peyrade, "where a sentiment is 
universal there is no longer a question of prejudice but of 



413 BALZAC'S WORKS 

opinion, and that opinion must be the rule for every man 
who wishes for his own respect or that of others." 

"And when you were cheating that bankrupt notary," 
exclaimed Corentin, "when you were robbing a corpse to 
enrich the Thuilliers, you claimed your own respect and 
that of the barristers' association! And who knows but 
what your life has worse actions to show. I am a more 
honest man than you, because, outside of my duties, I have 
not a single doubtful deed to reproach myself with, and 
whenever an opportunity to do good presented itself I have 
done it everywhere and always. Do you think that to take 
care of this mad girl for eleven years has been a bed of 
roses? But she was the daughter of your uncle, my oldest 
friend, and now, when feeling that my days are declining, 
I come to you with hard cash, and ask you to relieve me 
of this burden — " 

"What!" exclaimed Theodose, "do you say the mad girl 
is my uncle la Peyrade's daughter?" 

"Yes, the girl I want you to marry is that man's 
daughter. Now, in spite of your uncle's strict silence 
about his family, do I not know as much about it as if it 
were my own? Before allotting you to your cousin, was 
1 not able to supply myself with the fullest information ? 
You stick out your tongue at the police, but where would 
you be without it? Your uncle belonged to it, and, thanks 
to that fact, was the confidant, I might almost say the friend, 
of Louis XV III., who took infinite pleasure in his conversa- 
tion. Your cousin is of the same line. Your character and 
mind, the foolish position you have put yourself in, your 
whole being — all gravitates toward the solution I propose to 
you, which is nothing less, if you please, than to take my 
place, to be Corentin's successor! And then you think I 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 419 

have no hold upon you, and imagine you can escape me by 
standing on that silly middle class pride!" 

La Peyrade must have been more amenable to persua- 
sion than he had given token of, for the great police agent's 
ardor, and the sort of appropriation made of his person, 
brought an amused smile to his face. 

Corentin had risen, in the meantime, and was striding up 
and down the room where this scene was being enacted, and 
talking, as if to himself — "The police! Who is it that de- 
spises the police ? Only the fools who know no better than 
to scoff at their own safeguard. Abolish the police, and 
you abolish civilization. Does the police ask for the es- 
teem of such people ? No, it only wants to instil one emo- 
tion into them: fear, the great lever by which humanity 
is governed, that infamous race whose loathsome instincts 
can hardly be kept in check by God, and hell-fire, and the 
executioner, and the constable, all combined. Are you, 
too," and he paused, casting a contemptuous glance at la 
Peyrade, "one of the dolts who see nothing in the police 
but a collection of spies and informers, and who never sus- 
pect in them astute politicians, diplomats of the highest 
ability, or short-robed Eichelieus? Why, Mercury, my 
dear sir, Mercury, the cleverest of the pagan deities, was 
he not the police incarnate? Is Monsieur the Prefect of 
Police, an honored Minister, greatly respected, and made 
much of, nothing more than a spy? "Very well, sir, I am 
the prefect of the secret police of diplomacy and higher 
politics, and you balk at the throne which I, like Charles 
V., grown old, want to abdicate. To appear small, and 
accomplish huge things; to live in a cave as comfortably 
furnished as this, and command the light; to have an in- 
visible army at your beck, always ready, always devoted, 



420 BALZAC'S WORKS 

always obedient; to know the underside of everything; 
never to be pulled by any string, because we hold them 
all in our own hands; to see through every wall, pene- 
trate all secrets, and probe every heart and every conscience 
— this, sir, is what frightens you! And yet, you were not 
afraid to wallow in the Thuillier mire, you, a thoroughbred, 
allowed yourself to be harnessed to a cab, to the ignoble 
tasks of getting this upstart elected deputy, and of editing 
his middle class newspaper! To succeed me in office, and 
marry your cousin, with a dowry of not less than five hun- 
dred thousand francs, that is my offer to you. I am not 
asking for an immediate answer. I should have no confi- 
dence in a decision that had not been well weighed. To- 
morrow I shall be here all day, and may my desire become 
yours!" 

Then, dismissing his visitor with a little dry, curt nod, 
he said — "I will not say good-by, but au revoir, Monsieur 
de la Peyrade." Upon which Corentin stepped to a side- 
board, which bore everything needful to make a glass of 
sugar-water. This he had really earned, and, taking no 
further notice of the Provencal, who went out somewhat 
abashed, he gave himself up entirely to that prosaical 
pursuit. 

Was it necessary to his conversion that, the day after his 
encounter with Corentin, la Peyrade should be oppressed by 
a visit from Madame Lambert, who had become a trouble- 
some and importunate creditor ? As the tempter had said, 
it seemed as if his character, and mind, and ambitions, and 
past follies were all dragging him down a precipitous slope, 
where the sudden solution of all his difficulties so strangely 
presented itself. Fatality — if the phrase be permissible — 
poured a rich shower of entanglements over him that 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 421 

drowned him. It was now the 31st of October, and the 
legal vacation was drawing to a close. On the 2d of No- 
vember the courts would reopen, and the barrister received 
a notice to appear before the association just as Madame 
Lambert was leaving him. To the woman, who had been 
pressing him hard to pay her, on the plea of quitting her 
place at Monsieur Picot's, and returning to her own part of 
the country, he said — "Call again the day after to-morrow, 
at the same hour, and your money will be ready for you. 1 ' 

The behest which summoned him before his peers he 
answered by denying the right of the association to bring 
him to book for an occurrence in his private life. The 
reply was unequivocal, and would inevitably result in the 
ruling off of his name from the roll of barristers pleading 
in the royal courts. At any rate, his letter had a flavor of 
dignity and protest which saved his self-respect. He also 
wrote to Thuillier, apprising him of the fact that his visit 
to du Portail had resulted in the necessity of his entering 
upon a different match. He therefore released Thuillier 
from his word, and took back his own. It was all put quite 
coldly, without a syllable of regret for the alliance he was 
renouncing. In a postscript he added: "We will talk over 
my connection with the paper," thus hinting that he might 
not wish to maintain it. He was careful to make a copy 
of this letter, and when, an hour later, in Corentin's study, 
he was asked what the upshot of his reflections was, by way 
of reply he handed the great man of the secret police the 
matrimonial resignation document he had just drawn up. 

"That will do," was Corentin's comment. "But you 
may have to keep your position with the newspaper for 
some time. The candidature of this idiot is inconvenient 
to the government, and we must discuss some method 



422 BALZAC'S WORKS 

of tripping up our municipal councillor. You, in jour ca- 
pacity of editor-in-chief, omnipotent, have perhaps a good 
trick up your sleeve, and I presume your conscience does 
not revolt against playing it." 

"No, forsooth!" said the other, "the recollection of the 
humiliations I was so long subjected to will whet my appe- 
tite for vengeance against that vile middle class brood!" 

"Take care, you are young, and must guard against 
those movements of the bile. In our austere trade, we 
love nobody, and hate nobody. Our people are merely 
so many wooden or ivory chessmen, according to their 
quality, with whom we play our games. We must be like 
the sword that cuts as it is bid, but which cares only 
whether its edge is sharp, having neither human sympa- 
thies nor antipathies. — Now, let us talk about your cousin; 
I suppose you are somewhat curious to be presented to 
her." 

La Peyrade had no need to affect eagerness, since his 
was most genuine. 

"Lydie de la Peyrade," said Corentin, "is nearly thirty, 
though you would not take her for more than twenty. She 
is fair and slender, and her face, which is beautifully re- 
fined, is conspicuous for its angelically sweet expression. 
Bereft of her sanity by the dreadful catastrophe that ended 
her father's life, her monomania is of a very touching kind: 
she constantly has in her arms, or lying by her side, a bun- 
dle of linen rags, which she nurses and tends as though it 
were a sick child. With the exception of Bruno — my man- 
servant — and myself, both whom she recognizes, she sees in 
every other man a doctor, whom she consults and listens to 
as if he were an oracle. The crisis, which occurred some 
time ago in her health, convinced Horace Bianchon, that 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 423 

prince of medical science, that if only the reality could be 
substituted for this fictitious motherhood, the girl's reason 
would return. Would it not be a labor of love to bring 
light back again into this soul, where it is only veiled? 
And the bond of relationship, which nature has created 
between you, seems to point to you especially as the per- 
son to undertake this cure, of whose success, I may repeat, 
Bianchon and the eminent consulting physicians do not 
entertain the least doubt. I will now take you to Lydie, 
and remember to play your doctor's part, for the only way 
to arouse her from her habitual gentleness is to ignore her 
perpetual mania for medical advice." 

After passing through several rooms, la Peyrade was 
about to enter that generally occupied by Lydie, when she 
did not want more space for walking up and down, and 
rocking her imaginary baby. But they suddenly stopped 
at hearing two or three magnificent chords struck on a piano 
of the finest tone. 

"What is that?" asked la Peyrade. 

"It is Lydie," replied Corentin, with something that 
might have been taken for paternal pride. "She is ;tu 
admirable musician, and if she docs not write charming 
songs, as she did when she was mentally sound, she still 
renders most affecting ones with her fingers. But let us 
sit down and listen; if we went in now, the musical concert 
would end at once and the medical consultation begin." 

La Peyrade was astonished at hearing an impromptu in 
which a rare combination of original inspiration and tech- 
nical skill disclosed to his impressionable nature worlds of 
emotion as vast as they were new. Corentin enjoyed the 
surprise to which the Provencal gave vent in successive 
admiring exclamations, and praising up his wares, the old 



424 BALZAC'S WORKS 

man said — "That is well played, is it not? Liszt does Dot 
reach up to her ankles!" 

After a very lively scherzo, the first few notes of an 
adagio movement were heard. 

"Ah, she is going to sing," said Corentin, remembering 
the melody. 

"Does she sing, too?" 

"Like Pasta and Malibran ! Just listen to that!" 

Indeed, after a few bars of a ritornella, a voice sounded 
upon the Provencal's ear which thrilled him to the depths 
of his soul. 

"How you are carried away by music!" said Corentin. 
"You two were certainly made for one another!" 

La Peyrade silenced the speaker with a gesture, and his 
emotion, growing from moment to moment with each note 
of the song, at last culminated in this cry, by which, in his 
turn, Corentin was much impressed — "Great Heavens! it 
is the same air and the same voice." 

"Should you," asked the great police agent, "happen 
to have met Lydie somewhere?" 

"I do not know — I do not think so," answered la Pey- 
rade in a broken voice, "and, in any case, it must have been 
very long ago — but that air — that voice — it seems to me — " 

"Come in," said Corentin. And suddenly opening the 
door, he pulled in the Provencal after him. 

Her back turned to the intruders, and the noise of the 
piano preventing her from hearing what was passing behind 
her, Lydie was unconscious of their entrance. 

"Look," said Corentin, "do you remember her now?" 

La Peyrade took a few steps forward, and no sooner had 
he seen the lunatic's profile than he wildly clasped his 
hands over his head, with the exclamation, "It is she!" 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 425 

"Silence!" commanded Corentin. 

Bat attracted by Theodose's outcry, Lydie looked round, 
and noticing Corentin, said — "How unkind and annoying 
you are, to come and disturb me like this! You know very 
well I do not like people to listen to my playing. Ah, bnt 
I see," she added, catching sight of la Peyrade's black coat, 
"you have brought the doctor. That is very good of you, 
as I was going to ask you to send for him. The child has 
done nothing but cry all the morning. I have tried in vain 
to siug her to sleep, but it is of no use." And she went 
into a corner, where, by means of two chairs placed upside 
down and some sofa cushions, she had constructed some- 
thing resembling a cradle, and came back witli what she 
called her child. 

While making toward la Peyrade she carried her pre- 
cious burden with one hand, and with the other was arrang- 
ing her little darling's cap, with no eyes for anything else. 
As she approached him, The'odose, trembling and pale, and 
with a fixed stare, and now in full view of Mademoiselle 
de la Peyrade's face, recoiled with an expression evincing 
horror, and did not stop until a chair behind him upset his 
balance, and received him in his fall. 

Corentin, knowing how Lydie had lost her reason, had 
already divined and understood the rest, but it was his in- 
tention to illuminate the darkness with the strong light 
of evidence. 

"Look, doctor," Lydie meanwhile was saying, as she 
removed the outer wrappings, sticking the pins between her 
lips as she did so, "how thin she is getting, day by day!" 

La Peyrade was incapable of an answer. His face 
buried in his handkerchief, his breath came in short gasps, 
which would have prohibited him from uttering a word. 



426 BALZAC'S WORKS 

Then, with one of the impulses of feverish impatience to 
which her mental state disposed her — "But, doctor, why 
don't you look at her?" she cried, seizing Theodose vio- 
lently by the arm, and forcing him to reveal his features. 
"0 God!" she cried, directly she saw the Provencal's face. 

And letting the parcel of rags fall that she was holding 
in her arms, she started far back. Her eyes grew haggard. 
Quickly drawing her white hands back and forth over her 
forehead, and then through her hair, she seemed to be 
making an effort to revive her dormant and rebellious 
memory. Then, like a frightened filly that has just sniffed 
danger, she came up slowly to the Provencal, and bending 
half over to get a closer view of his face, which he was 
lowering and trying to hide from her, she scrutinized him 
for a few seconds, amid an unendurable silence. All of a 
sudden, a terrible cry wrung itself from her breast, and 
rushing into Corentin's arms and clinging to him frantically 
she exclaimed : "Save me! Save me! It is he!" 

And her outstretched finger seemed to nail the object of 
her aversion to the spot. 

After this outburst, she stammered a few incoherent 
words, and her eyes filled with tears. Corentin felt the 
muscles relaxing, which a moment before were holding him 
like a vise, and the unconscious Lydie sank into his arms, 
without la Peyrade, who was utterly unstrung, even think- 
ing of assisting him to hold her up and lay her on the sofa. 

"Do not stay here," said Corentin. "Go into my study, 
and I will join you there in a few minutes." 

After a very short lapse of time, the invalid having been 
left in the care of Katt and Bruno, and Perrache having 
been despatched post-haste to Doctor Bianchon, Corentin 
came back to la Peyrade. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 427 

"You see," he said solemnly, "that in pursuing the idea 
of this marriage so earnestly, I was obeying the voice of 
Heaven." 

"Monsieur," said la Peyrade contritely, "I have a con- 
fession to make — " 

"Which is superfluous," interrupted Corentin. "You 
can tell me nothing new. Most happih^, Providence has 
ordained that nothing of what has happened is irreparable, 
and we must hope that the past will be retrieved." 

"But should I not always be an object of horror to 
her, and could I possibly make the reparation that you 
speak of?" 

"The doctor, Monsieur ! " said Katt, opening the 
door. 

"How is Mademoiselle Lydie?" la Peyrade anxiously 
asked the woman. 

"She is very quiet now," answered Katt, "and when I 
brought her the bundle of rags, in order to induce her to go 
to bed, which she refused to do, saying that she was not ill, 
she observed in quite an astonished tone: 'What do you 
expect me to do with that, my dear Katt ? If you want me 
to play with a doll, get me one that is a little better made.' 

"You see," said Corentin, grasping the Provencal by 
the hand, "you will have been Achilles' spear." Upon 
which he went out with Katt to see Bianchon. 

Theodose, left to himself, had been sitting for some 
time indulging in such reflections as may be imagined, 
when the door of the study opened once more, and Bruno, 
the manservant, ushered in Ccrizet. 

"Aha, I thought so!" exclaimed the copying clerk. "I 
thought you would end up by going to du Portail! And 
how is the marriage progressing?" 



428 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"It is rather about your own that one would naturally 
ask for news." 

"Oh, then you have been told? Yes, it is quite true, 
my dear boy. There must be an end some day to cruising 
on stormy seas. You know whom I am marrying?" 

''Yes, a young actress, Mademoiselle Olympe Cardinal, 
a friend of the Minard family, who are subscribing thirty 
thousand francs to her dowry." 

"Which, added to thirty thousand promised me by du 
Portail in the event of your marriage with Lydie, " boasted 
Cerizet, "and the old twenty-five thousand which the other 
marriage — that never happened — was worth to me, makes a 
fat little sum of eighty-five thousand francs! With that 
and a pretty wife, a man would be forsaken by all the powers 
of heaven and earth if he could not do some business. But 
my first transaction must be with yourself. Du Portail, 
who is too busy to see me, has sent me here to confer with 
you as to how Thuillier's election is to be spoiled. Have 
you any ideas on the subject?" 

"No, and I confess that in the frame of mind I am in, 
owing to my recent interview with Monsieur du Portail, I 
do not feel equal to inventive effort." 

"The situation is this," Cerizet went on. "The govern- 
ment has the choice of another candidate who has not yet 
come forward, because it was not easy at first to make terms 
with him. In the meantime, Thuillier's candidature has 
been moving on. Minard, who was counted on to create a 
diversion, stupidly stood still in his corner, and the seizure 
of your pamphlet gave your nominee a certain aroma of 
popularity. In short, the Ministry was afraid he would be 
elected, and nothing could be more distasteful to them than 
such an event. Pompous fools like Thuillier are fearfully 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 429 

embarrassing in the opposition. They are jugs without 
handles; one does know where to take hold of them." 

"Monsieur Cerizet," said la Peyrade, assuming an air 
of patronage, and also desiring to know how far the usurer 
was in Corentin's confidence, "I see yon are quite well in- 
formed as to the private feeling of the government — " 

Here he was interrupted by Corentin's reappearance, 
who at once said — '"All is going well. There seems to be 
very good prospects of her reason being restored. Bian- 
chon, from whom it is my duty not to conceal anything, 
requests an interview with you. And my dear Monsieur 
Ce'rizet," said he, turning to the other, "I will ask you to 
kindly postpone our little Tliuillier debate until this 
evening." 

"So, you have got him at last!" exclaimed Ce'rizet, 
slapping la Peyrade on the shoulder. 

"You know what I promised you," said Corentin, "and 
you may rely on getting it." 

Cerizet left the place in high glee. 

On the day following this, when Corentin, la Peyrade, 
and Cerizet were to have met, with a view to besieging 
Thuillier's candidature, that distinguished statesman was 
discussing with his sister the letter in which Theodose had 
declared his surrender of Celeste's hand, and he was par- 
ticularly exercised over the postscriptum, which intimated 
that the Provencal would not remain editor-in-chief of the 
"Echo de la Bievre. " Henri, his servant, came in to ask 
if he would see Monsieur Cerizet. 

Thuillier's first impulse was to have the unwelcome 
visitor turned out. But thinking better of it, it occurred 
to him that in the dilemma which hi Peyrade's departure 
might leave him in at any moment, Cerizet might prove of 



430 BALZAC'S WORKS 

great value. He consequently ordered him to be shown in. 
Nevertheless, his welcome to Cerizet was very cold, and 
in some degree expectant. As for Cerizet, he behaved 
without diffidence, and like a man who has calculated 
eventualities. 

"Well, my dear sir," said he to Thuillier, "are you be- 
ginning to get a little enlightenment with regard to Mon- 
sieur de la Peyrade?" 

"What do you mean by that?" asked the old dandy of 
the Empire. 

"Why, the man who, after intriguing to marry your god- 
daughter, breaks off the match quite abruptly, as one day 
he will cancel the contract in which you gave him the lion's 
share of authority in the newspaper — this man is hardly 
worthy of your future implicit confidence." 

"Then,'' Thuillier asked eagerly, "you have some 
knowledge of la Peyrade's intentions not to continue on 
the newspaper?" 

"No," answered the banker of the poor. "Owing to the 
relations now existing between us, you will understand that 
I have not seen him lately, and still less been honored with 
his confidence. But if I may draw a conclusion from the 
gentleman's well-known character, you may take it for 
granted that the very day he finds it to his advantage to 
leave you in the lurch, he will cast you off as he would an 
old coat. I speak from my own experience." 

"Had you any dealings with him before you were man- 
ager of the newspaper?" asked Thuillier. 

"I should think so!" exclaimed Ce'rizet. "That house 
affair in which you were concerned was my discovery. He 
was to have brought us together with a view to my be- 
coming principal tenant with the privilege of subletting. 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 431 

But the unfortunate adventure of the bidding: interfered, 
and he profited by it to oust me and pocket all of the 
plums." 

"Plums?" said Thuillier. "I cannot see that there were 
very many of them, and apart from the marriage which he 
now refuses — " 

"What?" broke in the usurer. "What about the ten 
thousand francs which he got out of you, alleging it to be 
for the Cross you are still waiting for, and then the twenty- 
five thousand due to Madame Lambert which you guaran- 
teed to pay, and which you are likely to pay, like a good 
boy?" 

"What do I hear?" cried Brigitte, jumping up. "You 
have been guaranteeing twenty-five thousand francs?" 

"Yes, Mademoiselle," said Cerizet. "There was a mys- 
tery connected with that money the woman loaned him, or 
was supposed to have loaned him, and, even if I have not 
put my hand on the true explanation, there was certainly 
some dirty business involved. That la Peyrade was clever 
enough to whitewash himself in the eyes of your brother, 
and to iigure as injured innocence and indispensable 
genius." 

"But," inquired Thuillier, "how did you know that I 
stood security for Monsieur de la Peyrade, if you have not 
seen him since?" 

"Through the pious servant, who tells every one that 
now she is quite sure of being paid buck." 

"Well, now," said Brigitte to her brother, "you are a 
nice man of business 1" 

"Mademoiselle," continued Ce'rizet, "I wanted to give 
Monsieur Thuillier a little fright, but I do not think you 
will lose anything. Without knowing any particulars about 



482 BALZAC'S WORKS 

the marriage la Peyrade is looking forward to, it seems im- 
probable the family will leave the burden of those two 
shameful debts upon him, and if necessary, I myself will 
act as intermediary in your cause." 

"Monsieur," said Thuillier, "while thanking you for 
your kind intentions, allow me to say they surprise me a 
little, for the manner in which we parted gave me a very 
different opinion of you." 

"Surely you do not think I bear you any resentment on 
that account 1 I was sorry for you — that was all. I saw 
that you were under the spell, and told myself that you 
must be allowed to have your experience with la Peyrade, 
though I knew well enough that the day of justice would 
dawn for me soon. With that gentleman, evil practices 
never remain in abeyance long. 

"Pardon me, but I do not consider the breaking off of 
the marriage in question an evil practice. It happened by 
common consent, as it were." 

"And the hole he proposes to leave you in by deserting 
his editor's post without warning, and the debt he has 
loaded on your shoulders — does that meet with your ap- 
proval too?" 

"Monsieur Ce'rizet," said Thuillier, still remaining on 
his guard, "as I once said to la Peyrade, no man is indis- 
pensable, and should the editorship of my newspaper 
become vacant I am quite sure that numerous applicants 
would apply anxiously enough for the place." 

"Is this aimed at me? If so, you have missed fire, 
because even were you to do me the honor of asking my 
assistance, I could not possibly give it. I became disgusted 
with the newspapers long ago. I somehow let la Peyrade 
entangle me in another campaign with you, but the venture 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 433 

having brought out unpleasant issues, I promised myself 
never to be caught again. It was an entirely different 
matter I wanted to talk to you about. ' ' 

"Indeed?" 

"Yes," replied Cenzet. "Remembering your square 
treatment of me in the affair of the house, I thought 1 
could do no better than go to you again regarding an oppor- 
tunity of the same kind that lately has come under my 
notice; but I shall not imitate la Peyrade, I shall not tell 
you that I want to marry your goddaughter, and that I am 
acting out of pure friendship and devotion. It is a commer- 
cial transaction, and I expect my proper share. Besides, I 
am thinking that Mademoiselle Thuillier must find the let- 
ting of this property a heavy undertaking, for I observed 
just now that your shops are all empty still. Now, if she 
wishes to renew the idea of a principal tenant, which la 
Peyrade killed, that might enter into consideration when 
we come to the division of profits. You now know the pur- 
pose of my visit, and you see that the newspaper has noth- 
ing to do with it." 

"But what about this new house?" said Brigitte. "You 
must give us some details first." 

"That is exactly what you forgot to find out in the case 
of the other. You got this house for next to nothing, but 
you had some trouble owing to a higher bid. In this c;: 
there is a farm in Beauce, which has just been sold for a 
mere trifle, and at a slight advance in the price you could 
get it at an absurdly easy bargain." 

We will excuse the reader from listening to Cerizet's 
exposition, which was very lucid and attractive, and took 
a strong hold upon the old maid's cupidity. Thuillier him- 
self, in spite of all his suspicion and cautiousness, acknowl- 
(S)— Vol. 16 



434 BALZAC'S WORKS 

edged that the new enterprise gave high promise of being a 
successful speculation. 

"Only we must see the place first," insisted Brigitte. 

It may be remembered that in the purchase of the other 
house she declined to commit herself to la Peyrade, however 
slightly, without first inspecting the premises. 

"Nothing can be easier," said Cerizet, "I myself, in the 
event of our coming to an agreement, should wish for a 
thorough investigation. I had thought of making a little 
excursion, one of these days; so, if you like, I will hire a 
post-chaise at once, in order that we may reach our destina- 
tion early in the morning, and be back here in the evening 
in time for dinner." 

"But the post," objected Brigitte, "is rather a grand 
way of travelling. It seems to me that the stage-coach — " 

"When you go by stage-coach," answered Cerizet, "you 
never know when you will arrive. Anyhow, you need not 
be alarmed about the expense. I should have gone alone if 
you had not been coming, and therefore can offer you two 
seats in my chaise. If the affair comes to anything, when 
we are ready to settle up accounts, we will pay for the jour- 
ney between us." 

To a miser, small parings are often a determining factor 
when large sums are at stake. After a little formal hesita- 
tion, Brigitte concurred iu C^rizet's suggestion, and the 
same day the three of them set out for Chartres. Cerizet 
enjoined upon Thuillier the advisability of not mentioning 
this journey to la Peyrade, for fear the Provencal might take 
advantage of his absence to concoct some piece of mischief. 
The next day, about five o'clock in the evening, the trio 
had returned, and brother and sister, who, while they were 
with Cerizet, had not been free to exchange impressions, 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 435 

were of the opinion that the bargain would be an excellent 
one. They had found land of high quality, buildings and 
sheds in perfect condition, fine cattle, and good implements, 
and to become mistress of a rural estate was in Brigitte's 
eyes the top rung of the ladder of prosperity. 

"Minard," said she, "has only his town house and his 
money, bat we shall have land, agricultural property; no 
one is really rich without it." 

Thuillier was not so much infatuated witli these prospects 
— whose realization was still a little remote — as to lose sight 
of his newspaper and his candidature. His first thought 
was to ask for the issue which had appeared that morning. 

"It has not come," answered the servant. 

"How well the delivery is attended to," said Thuillier, 
annoyed; "not even the proprietor gets a copy." 

And although the dinner hour was near, and after the 
journey he was more inclined to take a bath than to go to 
the Rue Saint-Dominique-d'Enfei\ Thuillier nevertheless 
took a cab and drove to the office of the "Echo." Fresh 
disappointment awaited him there. The paper was "made 
up." Every one had gone away, including la Peyrade, and 
Coffinet, who had gone to the races, had taken aw:i v the key 
of the cupboard containing the files. So the unhappy owner 
bad to do without the paper he had come so far to get. ft 
would be impossible to describe Thuillier's wrath, lie ( 
up and down the editorial room with great strides, talking 
to himself aloud, as one does under violent excitement. 

"I will kick them all out of doors! 1 ' toe cried. But we 
are obliged to mitigate the actual form of expression his 
furious energy took. As be was uttering his anathema, he 
heard a knock at the door, to which he replied impatiently 
and angrily, "Conic in!" 



436 BALZAC'S WORKS 

In walked Minard, who at once threw himself into 
Thuillier's arms. 

"My dear friend! My most excellent friend!" began 
the mayor of the eleventh district, following up his embrace 
with vigorous handshakes. 

"Well, well, what is it?" said Thuillier, totally at a loss 
to comprehend these fervent demonstrations. 

"My dear fellow," continued Minard, "what admirable 
conduct! How chivalrous, and how disinterested! I need 
hardly say that it has had a tremendous effect in the whole 
district!" 

"But what is it, I ask you again ?" exclaimed Thuillier, 
more impatient than ever. 

"The article, the decision!" said Minard. "The whole 
thing is so noble, so elevated!" 

"But what article, what decision?" shouted the propri- 
etor of the "Echo," beside himself with wrath. 

"This morning's article," answered Minard. 

"This morning's article?" repeated Thuillier. 

"Come now, did you write it while you were asleep, or 
do you indulge in unconscious heroism?" 

"I tell you I have not written an article!" cried Thuil- 
lier. "I have been out of Paris since yesterday, and I do 
not even know what is in this morning's paper. Not an 
office boy is here to give me a copy!" 

"I have one here," said Minard, taking the much-cov- 
eted issue out of his pocket. "You may not have written 
the article, but you must have inspired it, and in any case 
the credit is yours." 

Thuillier snatched the paper from Minard's hand, and 
devoured rather than read the following: 

" 'The proprietor of this regenerated journal has long 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 437 

enough endured uncomplainingly the treacherous insinua- 
tions which a venal press showers upon every good citizen 
who, in the strength of his honest convictions, refuses to 
pass under the Caudine Forks of the powers that be. It has 
been said too often of a man who lias given sufficient proofa 
of integrity and unselfishness in his important office of a 
Paris edile, that he is but an ambitious schemer. Monsieur 
Jerome Thuillier has in his lofty dignity of mind ignored 
these coarse insults, and, encouraged by his scornful silence, 
subventioned scriveners have said that a certain newspaper, 
which is the outcome of sincere purpose and the most 
large-hearted patriotism, was only the footstool of a single 
man vulgarly gambling for a deputy's seat. Monsieur 
Jerome Thuillier has stood unmoved by these accusations, 
because justice and truth are patient, and because he in- 
tended to crush the reptile with one blow. The day of 
retribution is at hand.' 

"That devil of a la Peyrade!" said Thuillier, after the 
last sentence. "How he hits the mark!" 

"Yes, it is magnificent!" agreed Minard. 

Thuillier read on aloud — y 'Every one, friend and foe 
alike, will do Monsieur Jerome Thuillier the justice to 
admit that he has done nothing to capture the nomination 
which was voluntarily offered him. But since his actions 
have been so odiously distorted and shamefully travestiedj 
Monsieur Jerdme Thuillier owes it to himself, and still more 
to the great national party, to whose rank and file lie 
belongs, to show an example which shall put the base 
sycophants of power to confusion.' 

"La Peyrade is really describing me very well," said 
Thuillier, stopping in his reading once more; "and I now 
understand why he ordered the paper not to be sent to me: 



438 BALZAC'S WORKS 

he wanted to enjoy my surprise. ' Which shall put the base 
sycopliants of power to confusion,' ' he repeated. " 'Monsieur 
Thuillier, far from founding an opposition journal in order 
to push and support his election, at tbe moment when the 
outlook for this election seems most propitious to himself 
and most desperate for his rivals, hereby publicly declares 
in the most formal, the most absolute, and the most irrevo- 
cable manner that he withdraws from the contest!' 

"What is this? What?" cried Thuillier, not knowing 
whether to believe his eyes. 

"Oh, come now!" said the mayor; and as Thuillier 
looked too bewildered to go on reading, Minard took the 
paper from his hand, and himself continued: 

" — l That he withdraws from the contest, and begs the 
electors to transfer to Monsieur Minard, the mayor of the 
eleventh district, and his friend and colleague in municipal 
office, all the votes they appeared ready to honor himself 
with.'" 

"Why, this is infamous!" cried Thuillier, recovering his 
speech. "You have bought that Jesuit of a la Peyrade!" 

"Do you mean to say," asked Minard, amazed at Thuil- 
lier's remark, "that the article was not agreed upon be- 
tween you?" 

"The scoundrel sneaked it into the paper while I was 
away! Now I know why he would not let a copy be 
sent me!" 

"My dear fellow," said Minard, "what you are saying 
will hardly sound plausible to the rest of the world." 

"But it is treason, pure and simple, I tell you! It is a 
vile ambush! Withdraw from the contest? Why should I 
withdraw ?" 

"Of course you understand that if your confidence has 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 439 

been abused I deeply regret it, but I have already had my 
circulars distributed, and now all I can say is, good luck 
to the luckiest!" 

"You need not talk! This is a performance paid lor 
out of your pocket!" 

"Monsieur Thuillier, " threatened Minard, "I advise you 
not to repeat those words, unless you are prepared to answer 
for them!" 

Fortunately, Thuillier was spared the proof of his private 
valor by the truant Coffinet, who had in the meanwhile re- 
turned, and who, throwing open the office door, grandly 
announced: "Messieurs, the electors of the twelfth district!" 

The district was represented by five persons. A chemist, 
the leader of the deputation, addressed Thuillier in the fol- 
lowing speech: "We have come, sir, after taking cognizance 
of an article which appeared this morning in the 'Echo de la 
Bievre, ' to ask you about the exact origiu and significance 
of said article, thinking it incredible that after soliciting our 
suffrages, you now, at election time, should in a fit of mis- 
placed puritanism throw disorder and strife among us, and 
possibly insure the victory of the Ministerial candidate. A 
nominee is not his own master; he is the servant of the con- 
stituents who have promised to honor him with their votes. 
Moreover," continued the orator, casting a glance at Minard, 
"the presence in this place of a candidate you are taking the 
trouble to recommend to us, indicates connivance between 
yourself and him, and I need not ask who is being 
deceived." 

"No, not at all, gentlemen," said Thuillier. "I am not 
giving up my candidature. This article was written and 
published without my consent. To-morrow you will see 
the denial in my own paper, and at the same time you will 



440 BALZAC'S WORKS 

learn that the wretch who betrayed me has ceased to be a 
member of my staff. ' ' 

"So that, in spite of your declarations to the contrary, 
you still wish to be the opposition candidate?" 

"Yes, gentlemen, to the very last; and I will ask you to 
use all your influence in the district to neutralize this plot 
officially, pending the appearance of my most emphatic 
disavowal of the article." 

"Very good, very good!" said the electors. 

"And as to the presence here of Monsieur Minard, my 
rival, I did not ask him to come, and in fact was engaged in 
a lively dispute with him just before you entered." 

"Very good, very good!" said the electors again. 

And after cordially shaking hands with the chemist, 
Thuillier escorted the deputation to the end of the room. 
Turning back, he said to Minard — "My dear friend, I re- 
tract the words that offended you; but you can now see 
how genuine my indignation was." 

Coffinet opened the door once more, announcing — "Mes- 
sieurs, the electors of the eleventh district!" 

The present deputation consisted of seven men. Their 
spokesman, a merchant hosier, thus addressed Thuillier — 
"Monsieur, it was with profound admiration that we learned 
this morning, through your paper, of the great act of civic 
virtue which touched us all universally. Your retirement 
gives proof of very unusual disinterestedness, and the 
esteem of your fellow-citizens is — " 

"Permit me," Thuillier stopped him — "I must not allow 
you to go on. The article you are so kind to congratulate 
me about was published by mistake." 

"What?" asked the hosier, "you are not going to re- 
tire? And do you imagine that beside Monsieur Minard's 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 441 

candidature — whose presence here seems to me rathei pecul- 
iar, under the circumstance — yours has the faintest chance 
of success?" 

"Sir," said Thuillier, "pray ask the electors to wait for 
to-morrow's issue, when I shall print the most categorical 
denial. To-day's article proceeds from a misunderstanding." 

"So much the worse, Monsieur," replied the hosier, "if 
you are missing an opportunity to place yourself, in the 
opinion of your fellow-citizens, on an equality with Wash- 
ington and other great men of antiquity!" 

"Wait till to-morrow, gentlemen. I am none the less 
sensible of your kindness, and when you know all the truth 
I hope you will see that I am not unworthy of your esteem. ' ' 

"What a pretty mess this is!" said an elector out loud. 

"Yes," chimed in another, "it looks as if we were being 
made fools of!" 

"Gentlemen," remonstrated the leader of the deputation, 
"we must wait till to-morrow, when we shall see the candi- 
date's explanation." 

After which the second deputation took itself off. 

It is not very likely that Thuillier would have gone 
further than the first door with them; at any rate, he was 
stopped by la Peyrade, who at this moment came in. 

"I was at your house just now," said the Provencal, 
"and was told that I should find you here." 

"And no doubt you have come to account for the ex- 
traordinary article you took the liberty of publishing in my 
name." 

"Exactly. The man you know of, and whose powerful 
hand you have already felt, yesterday made known to me — 
in your interest — the feeling of the government. From this 
I derived the persuasion that defeat stared you in the face. 



442 BALZAC'S WORKS 

I therefore tried to pave for you a dignified and honorable 
road of retreat." 

"Very well, sir," said Thuillier. "But do you know 
that from the present moment you cease to belong to t he- 
staff of the newspaper?" 

"I myself came to inform you of the fact." 

"And no doubt to have the financial question regulated ?" 

"Gentlemen," said Minard, "I see that you have busi- 
ness to transact, and so I will make my bow." 

"Here are ten thousand francs," said la Peyrade, as soon 
as Minard had left the room, "which I will ask you to hand 
over to Mademoiselle Brigitte. And here I return the doc- 
ument by virtue of which you guaranteed the payment of 
twenty-five thousand francs to Madame Lambert, whose 
receipt 1 hold for the money, as you see." 

"Quite right, Monsieur," said Thuillier. 

La Peyrade bowed and retired. 

"Viper!" hissed Thuillier, as he saw him go. 

"Cerizet's expression was correct: a pompous fool," said 
la Peyrade. 

The blow struck at Thuillier 's election was fatal, but it 
profited Minard nothing. While they were wrestling for 
the votes, came a man patronized by royalty, with his pock- 
ets full of tobacco licenses and other electoral currency, and 
this third rogue slipped in between the other two, who were 
busy maligning each other. 

It need hardly be said that Brigitte did not get the farm 
in Beauce, which was only a mirage to draw Thuillier away 
from Paris, while la Peyrade was manipulating the "Echo 
de la Bievre. " The famous article was not only a service 
rendered the government, but revenge for all past humilia- 
tions. Thuillier had his suspicions of Cerizet's complicity, 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 443 

but the usurer successfully exonerated himself, and by bar- 
tering off the newspaper, which had become a veritable 
nightmare to its luckless owner, washed himself as white 
as snow. Indirectly bought by Corentin, the wretched op- 
position sheet became an organ of the police, and circulated 
in low taverns on Sundays. 

About a month after the scene which brought la Peyrade 
the assurance that by an error in the past he had sealed his 
fate in the future, he married Lydie, who now had long in- 
tervals of lucidity, but who would only regain the plenitude 
of her faculities at the time and upon the condition specified 
bv the doctors. . 

One morning Corentin 's successor-elect was in his study 
with him. Taking part in Corentin's labors, la Peyrade was 
serving his apprenticeship under the great master, and learn- 
ing the difficult and delicate duties that were to fall to his 
lot. Corentin, however, thought his pupil was not taking 
his initiation in the proper spirit of enthusiasm, that he was 
not putting heart and soul into his work. He saw that a 
certain sense of degradation weighed on the young man. 
Time would get the better of the wound, which had not 
yet gathered to a scar. 

Opening a number of envelopes containing reports from 
his agents, Corentin ran over them with a glance of the eye. 
Most of them were much less valuable than one might sup- 
pose, and he threw them disdainfully into a waste-paper 
basket, whence they were taken away, to be burned in a 
heap. But one of these reports seemed to hold the great 
man's attention. While reading it, an occasional smile 
flitted over his face, and when he had done, he passed the 
sheets to la Peyrade, with the remark — "Here is something 
that will interest you. You .will see that our profession, 



444 BALZAC'S WORKS 

which you think so gloomy, is sometimes enlivened by a 
comedy. Before reading this report, you must learn that 
it comes from one Henri, whom Madame Kormorn placed 
with the Thuilliers as their manservant." 

"So," said la Peyrade, "you also distribute your agents 
as servants?" 

"Sometimes we do," replied Corentin. "If you want 
to know everything, you must utilize all resources. But 
a great deal of rubbish is talked about this. It is not true 
that the police makes a regular system of employing all 
footmen and chambermaids to form a network of spies over 
the whole of private life. There is nothing absolute or 
fixed in our methods; we act as time and occasion require. 
1 wanted to keep an eye and an ear on the Thuilliers, so 
1 sent the Grodollo woman. She, on her side, established 
one of our agents there, as her assistant, an intelligent fel- 
low, you will perceive. But, under other circumstances, I 
might have a servant arrested, coming to sell me his mas- 
ter's secrets, and have a message sent the person that his 
surroundings were not trustworthy.'' 

La Peyrade then read the report of the agent known as 
Henri, which was addressed to "The Director of the Secret 
Police," and contained what follows: 

"I did not stav with the little baron. He is a man com- 
pletely taken up with his pleasures, and I should never have 
heard anything in his house worth reporting. I have found 
another place, which would seen! to be of interest to you, as 
relating to the mission intrusted me by Madame de Godollo. 
I therefore hasten to acquaint you with the facts. The 
house where I am employed is inhabited by an old profes- 
sor called Picot, who lives on the second floor, Place de ia 
Madeleine, in the apartment formerly occupied by my old 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 445 

masters, the Thuilliers. They left this house some time 
ago to return to the Latin Quarter. Mademoiselle Bngitte 
never was enamored of these regions, where her want of 
education made her ill at ease. Because I spoke French 
correctly, she called me 'the orator,' and she could not 
endure Monsieur Pascal, her porter, seeing that, as beadle 
of the Madeleine parish, he has some manners. And she 
even complained of the shopkeepers in the square behind 
the church, where she naturally bought her supplies, as 
giving themselves 'competent airs,' and because they did 
not use bad language, as they do at the central market, 
and also because they laughed in her face when she be- 
gan to haggle about prices. She let her house to a Mon- 
sieur Cerizet, as principal tenant, a very ugly man, whose nose 
is all eaten away, for a rent of fifty-five thousand francs. 
He seems to be a man of business. He recently married 
an actress from a small theatre, and expected to live in the 
apartment on the second floor, when Monsieur Picot, arriv- 
ing from England with his wife, a very rich Englishwoman, 
saw the house and offered a handsome figure. Monsieur 
Cerizet sold him his interest in it, and that is how, through 
the good offices of Monsieur Pascal, the porter, with whom 
I had kept on the best of terms, I was taken into Monsieur 
Picot's service. 

"My new master's fortune is a long story, and I am de- 
scribing it to Monsieur because another person, in whose 
matrimonial affairs Madame de Godollo was interested, is 
mixed up in it. This other person is the man known as 
Felix Phellion, inventor of a star. From despair at not 
being able to marry the young lady intended for Monsieur 
de la Peyrade, he started off to England to embark on a 
voyage round the world, which was a very lover-like idea. 



446 BALZAC'S WORKS 

Hearing of his departure, Monsieur Picot, his old master, 
who is much attached to him, immediately followed him 
to prevent this madcap expedition, which he did easily 
enough. The English are very jealous about foreign voy- 
ages of discovery, and, when they saw Monsieur Phellion 
go on board with their own explorers, they asked him if 
he had a permit from the admiralty. As he was unable to 
produce one, they laughed at him, and sailed away without 
him, for fear he should find out more than themselves. 

"Telemachus and his mentor were preparing to return 
to France, when Monsieur Picot received a letter such as 
only an Englishwoman would be capable of writing. The 
lady said she had read his 'Theory of Perpetual Motion' ; 
that she had heard of his wonderful discovery of a star; 
that she looked upon him as a genius at least equal to 
Newton; that if the hand that wrote the letter and a mar- 
riage portion of eighty thousand pounds (or two millions 
of francs) were acceptable, both were at his disposal. Mon- 
sieur Picot was flattered by the offer, and met the lady by 
appointment, to find she was at least forty years old, had 
a red nose and large teeth, and wore glasses. The profes- 
sor's first impulse was to make his pupil marry her; but, 
seeing this was impossible, before acceding on his own ac- 
count he stated that he was old, three-quarters blind, not 
the discoverer of a star, and not blessed with a single sou. 
The Englishwoman answered that Milton was not young 
either, and entirely blind; that Monsieur Picot only ap- 
peared to have a cataract; that she knew all about it, being 
a surgeon's daughter, and would get the operation per- 
formed; that she was not particular about his having dis- 
covered a star; that it was the author of 'Perpetual Motion' 
who for ten years had been the idol of her soul, and whom 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 447 

she was now offering her hand, with a marriage portion of 
eighty thousand pounds (or two millions of francs). Mon- 
sieur Picot replied that if his eyesight were restored, and the 
lady consented to live in Paris, since he hated England, he 
would allow himself to be married. The operation was per- 
formed, and well performed, and three weeks after the 
newly wed couple arrived in our capital. All these de- 
tails 1 learned from Madame Picot's maid, with whom 
I stand very well. 

"But what remains to be told you, Monsieur, are facts 
of which I can write as an eye-witness, and consequently 
can swear to. As soon as Monsieur and Madame Picot had 
iinished furnishing their apartment, which they did in the 
grandest and most luxurious style, my master gave me a 
quantity of invitations to dinner, for the Thuillier, Colle- 
ville, and Minard families, for the Abbe* Gondrin, the rec- 
tor of the Madeleine Church, and in fact for nearly all the 
guests who had been present at a dinner given by the Thuil- 
liers a month before, and where he had 'happened in,' and 
behaved in a rather extraordinary manner. All who got 
invitations were so astonished that Monsieur Picot had 
made a rich marriage, and was occupying the Thnilliers' 
floor, that they went to the porter, Monsieur PmscmI, to see 
if they were not being made the victims of a h<u\. But 
the information rendered sounding true and reliable the 
whole company went to the place. They did not see Mon- 
sieur Picot at first, but were received by Madame Picot, 
who speaks very little French, not more than enough to a&y 
to each arriving guest, 'My husband will be fcere presently.' 
At last, Monsieur Picot came in, and everybody was amazed 
to see, instead of a shabby old blind man, a fine, good-look- 
ing, sprightly old gentleman, carrying his years quite gayly. 



448 BALZAC'S WORKS 

" 'I beg your pardon, ladies,' he said, 'for not being here 
to meet you; but I have just come from the Academy of 
Science, where I was waiting to hear the result of an elec- 
tion — Monsieur Felix Phellion's, whom you all know, and 
who was unanimously elected by all but three votes.' 

"This piece of news seemed to impress the company, and 
Monsieur Picot went on — 'I must also, ladies, make my 
apologies for my rather unusual conduct, some weeks ago, 
on this very spot. My excuse is my infirmity, the worries 
of a lawsuit, and an old housekeeper, who was robbing me 
and tormenting me in a hundred ways, and of whom I have 
fortunately got rid. To-day, you see me rejuvenated and 
rich by the generosity of the amiable woman who has be- 
stowed her hand on me, and I should be glad to entertain 
you in the right manner, were it not that the recollection of 
my young friend, who has been lifted to fame by his admis- 
sion to the Academy of Science, casts a cloud of sorrow 
over my mind. All of us here were unfair to him. I was 
guilty of ingratitude when he ascribed his glorious discov- 
ery to me, and earned me the fruits of his immortal efforts; 
that young lady I observe over there, with tears in her eyes, 
foolishly accused him of atheism; that other lady, with a 
severe countenance, harshly rejected a dignified offer made 
on the young man's behalf by his father, whose white hair 
she would have done better to respect; Monsieur Thuillier 
sacrificed Felix to his own ambition; Monsieur Colleville 
forgot his father's part, which was, to choose his daughter 
the worthiest and most honorable husband; Monsieur Mi- 
nard jealously tried to push his son into his place. Only 
two people here, Madame Thuillier and Monsieur the Abbe 
Gondrin did hiw full justice! Very well — 1 ask that godly 
man — is one not sometimes tempted to doubt Divine good- 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 449 

ness when this fine young man, the victim of us all, is at 
the present moment being tossed by sea and tempest, and 
when we shall be left in anxiety for his safe return three 
long years ? ' 

" 'The Lord is all-powerful,' replied the Abbd, 'and He 
will protect Monsieur Felix in the midst of peril, and in 
three years, I firmly believe, he will be restored to his 
friends.' 

"'But will it not be too late, in three years? Will 
Mademoiselle Colleville wait so long?' 

" 'Yes, I swear to wait!' cried the girl, carried away by 
a rush of feeling she could not control. And then she sat 
down again, shamefaced and weeping. 

" 'And you, Mademoiselle Thuillier, and you, Madame 
Colleville?' continued Monsieur Picot, 'will you allow this 
child to wait for him who is so worthy of her?' 

" 'Yes! Oh, yes!' was the universal cry; for Monsieur 
Picot's voice, which is deep and sonorous, and which 
sounded as though tears were in it, had profoundly stirred 
the emotions of all assembled. 

" 'It is time, then,' said Monsieur Picot, 'to grant Provi- 
dence an amnesty.' And going to the door, where he nearly 
caught me listening, he gave me this order in a very loud 
voice — 'Announce Monsieur Felix Phellion and family!' 

"And through another door, which then opened, came 
five or six persons, who followed Monsieur Picot into the 
drawing-room. At the sight of her lover, Mademoiselle 
Colleville fell into a faint, but it only lasted a minute, and, 
beholding Monsieur Felix on his knees, she threw herself 
into Madame Thuillier's arms, exclaiming — 'Godmother, 
you always told me to hope!' 

"Mademoiselle Thuillier, whom I have always taken to 



450 BALZAC'S WORKS 

be a superior woman, in spite of her rough character and 
defective education, then had a handsome inspiration. Just 
as a movement toward the dining-room began, 'One mo- 
ment!' said she. And going up to Phellion, the father, she 
continued — 'My dear old friend, I ask you, in the name of 
Mademoiselle Celeste Colleville, our adopted daughter, for 
the hand of Monsieur Felix Phellion in marriage!' 

" 'Well done! Well done!' cried everybody. 

" 'Heavens!' exclaimed Monsieur Felix, with wet eyes, 
'what have I done to deserve such happiness?' 

" 'You have been an honest man and a Christian without 
knowing it,' said the Abbd Gondrin." 

Here, la Peyrade threw down the report. 

"Why do you not finish it?" said Corentin. "But there 
is nothing more, in fact. Monsieur Henri confesses to being 
touched by this scene, and says that, as I was once interested 
in the marriage, he thought best to inform me of all the 
circumstances. And he concludes, as the custom is in all 
lengthy police reports, with a thinly veiled request for a 
cash bonus. I forgot, though," added Corentin, "to men- 
tion an important item. At dinner, the English woman 
made Monsieur Picot announce that, having no heirs, upon 
her husband's decease and her own her whole fortune wou^d 
go to Felix, who will thus be a very rich man." 

La Peyrade had got up, and was pacing the room with 
long steps. 

"Well," said Corentin, "what is the matter?" 

"Nothing." 

"Yes, I think you are a little jealous of the young man's 
good luck. But, my dear fellow, allow me to tell you, that 
if you wished the result he attained you ought to have set 
about matters in the same way that he did. When I sent 



PROVINCIAL PARISIANS 451 

you a hundred louis to help you in your law studies, I had 
not picked you out for my successor; if you had rowed 
laboriously in your galley, and had braved obscure and 
painful toil, your day would have come. But you insisted 
on doing violence to fate. I mean to say that you cut your 
crop green. You went into journalism, and thence into 
business. You made the acquaintance of Monsieur Cerizet 
and Monsieur Dutocq, and I frankly acknowledge you have 
been fortunate in reaching the harbor of refuge that now 
shelters you. In any case, you are not simple-hearted 
enough ever to have been greatly delighted with the joys 
open to Felix Phellion. These middle class people — " 

"The middle classes!' 1 said la Peyrade. "I know them 
now, and that at my own expense. They are often very 
absurd, and have great vices, but they have virtues also, or 
to say the least, estimable qualities; in them lies the vital 
force of our corrupt society." 

"Your society!" said Corentin, smiling. "You speak 
as though you were still in its ranks. You are off the list, 
my dear boy, and ought to be better satisfied with your lot. 
Governments pass away, and societies perish or pale, but we 
—we dominate them all; for the POLICE is eternal!" 



A PASSION IN THE DESERT 

/WA/S A T the menagerie. The first time 1 saw Mon- 
sieur Martin enter the cages I uttered an exclamation 
of surprise. I found myself next to an old soldier with the 
right leg amputated, who had come in with me. His face 
had attracted my attention. He had one of those intrepid 
heads stamped with the seal of warfare, and on which the 
battles of Napoleon are written. Besides, he had that 
frank, good-humored expression that always impresses me 
favorably. He was without doubt one of those troopers 
who are surprised at nothing, who find matter for laughter 
in the contortions of a dying comrade, who bury or plunder 
him quite light-heartedly, who stand intrepidly in the way 
of bullets — in fact, one of those men who waste no time in 
deliberation, and would not hesitate to make friends with 
the devil himself. After looking very attentively at the 
. proprietor of the menagerie getting out of his box, my com- 
panion pursed up his lips with an air of mockery and 
contempt, with that peculiar and expressive twist which 
superior people assume to show they are not taken in. 
Then, when I was expatiating on the courage of Monsieur 
Martin, he smiled, shook his head knowingly, and said, 
"Easy enough!" 

"How 'easy enough'?" I said. "If you would only 
explain me the mystery I should be obliged." 

After a few minutes, during which we made acquaint- 
(452) 



A PASSION IN THE DESERT 453 

ance, we went to dine at the first restaurateur's whose shop 
caught our eye. At dessert a bottle of champagne com- 
pletely refreshed and brightened up the memories of this 
odd old soldier. He told me his story as follows: 

During the expedition in Upper Egypt under General 
Desaix, a Provencal soldier fell into the hands of the Man- 
grabins, and was taken by these Arabs into the deserts 
beyond the falls of the Nile. 

In order to place a sufficient distance between them- 
selves and the French army, the Mangrabins made forced 
marches and only rested during the night. They camped 
round a well overshadowed by palm trees, under which 
they had previously concealed a store of provisions. Not 
surmising that the notion of flight would occur to their 
prisoner, they contented themselves with binding his hands, 
and after eating a few dates, and given provender to their 
horses, went to sleep. 

When the brave Provencal saw that his enemies were 
no longer watching him, he made use of his teeth to steal a 
cimeter, fixed the blade between his knees, and cut the cords 
which prevented him using his hands; in a moment he was 
free. He at once seized a rifle and a dagger, then taking 
the precaution to provide himself with a sack of dried dates, 
oats, and powder and shot, and to fasten a cimeter to his 
waist, he leaped on to a horse and spurred on vigorously in 
the direction where he thought to find the French army. 
So impatient was he to see a bivouac again that ho pressed 
on the already tired courser at such speed that its flanks 
were lacerated with his spurs, and at last the poor animal 
died, leaving the Frenchman alone in the desert. 

After walking some time in the sand with all the courage 
of an escaped convict, the soldier was obliged to stop, as 



454 BALZAC'S WORKS 

the day had already ended. In spite of the beauty of an. 
Oriental sky at night, he felt he had not strength enough to 
go on. Fortunately he had been able to find a small hill, 
on the summit of which a few palm trees shot up into the 
air; it was their verdure seen from afar which had brought 
hope and consolation to his heart. His fatigue was so great 
that he lay down upon a rock of granite, capriciously cut 
out like a camp-bed; there he fell asleep without taking any 
precaution to defend himself while he slept. He had made 
the sacrifice of his life. His last thought was one of regret. 
He repented having left the Mangrabins, whose nomad life 
seemed to smile on him now that he was far from them and 
without help. He was awakened by the sun, whose pitiless 
rays fell with all their force on the granite and produced an 
intolerable heat — for he had had the stupidity to place him- 
self inversely to the shadow thrown by the verdant majestic 
heads of the palm trees. He looked at the solitary trees 
and shuddered — they reminded him of the graceful shafts 
crowned with foliage which characterize the Saracen col- 
umns in the cathedral of Aries. 

But when, after counting the palm trees, he cast his eyes 
around him, the most horrible despair was infused into his 
soul. Before him stretched an ocean without limit. The 
dark sand of the desert spread further than sight could 
reach in every direction, and glittered like steel struck with 
bright light. It might have been a sea of looking-glass, or 
lakes melted together in a mirror. A fiery vapor carried 
up in streaks made a perpetual whirlwind over the quiver- 
ing land. The sky was lighted with an Oriental splendor 
of insupportable purity, leaving naught for the imagination 
to desire. Heaven and earth were on fire. 

The silence was awful in its wild and terrible majesty. 



A PASSION IN THE DESERT 455 

Infinity, immensity, closed in upon the soul from every side. 
Not a cloud in the sky, not a breath in the air, not a flaw 
on the bosom of the sand, ever moving in diminutive waves; 
the horizon ended as at sea on a clear day, with one line of 
light, definite as the cut of a sword. 

The Provencal threw his arms round the trunk of one of 
the palm trees, as though it were the body of a friend, and 
then, in the shelter of the thin straight shadow that the palm 
cast upon the granite, he wept. Then sitting down he re- 
mained as he was, contemplating with profound sadness the 
implacable scene, which was all he had to look upon. He 
cried aloud, to measure the solitude. His voice, lost in the 
hollows of the hill, sounded faintly and aroused no echo — 
the echo was in his own heart. The Provencal was twenty- 
two years old — he loaded his carbine. 

"There'll be time enough," he said to himself, laying 
on the ground the weapon which alone could bring him 
deliverance. 

Looking by turns at the black expanse and the blue 
expanse, the soldier dreamed of France — he smelled with 
delight the gutters of Paris — he remembered the towns 
through which he had passed, the faces of his fellow- 
soldiers, the most minute details of his life. His southern 
fancy soon showed him the stones of his beloved Provence, 
in the play of the heat which waved over the spread sheet 
of the desert. Fearing the danger of this cruel mirage, he 
went down the opposite side of the hill to that by which 
he had come up the day before. The remains of a rug 
showed that this place of refuge had atone time been in- 
habited; at a short distance he saw some palm trees full of 
dates. Then the instinct which binds us to life awoke 
again in his heart. He hoped to live long enougli to await 



456 BALZAC'S WORKS 

the passing of some Arabs, or perhaps he might hear the 
sound of cannon; for at this time Bonaparte was traversing 
Egypt. 

This thought gave him new life. The palm tree seemed 
to bend with the weight of the ripe fruit. He shook some 
of it down. When he tasted this unhoped-for manna, he 
felt sure that the palms had been cultivated by a former 
inhabitant — the savory, fresh meat of the dates were proof 
of the care of his predecessor. He passed suddenly from 
dark despair to an almost insane joy. He went up again to 
the top of the hill, and spent the rest of the day in cutting 
down one of the sterile palm trees, which the night before 
had served him for shelter. A vague memory made him 
think of the animals of the desert; and in case they might 
come to drink at the spring, visible from the base of the 
rocks but lost further down, he resolved to guard himself 
from their visits by placing a barrier at the entrance of his 
hermitage. 

In spite of his diligence, and the strength which the fear 
of being devoured asleep gave him, he was unable to cut 
the palm in pieces, though he succeeded in cutting it down. 
At eventide the king of the desert fell; the sound of its fall 
resounded far and wide, like a sigh in the solitude; the 
soldier shuddered as though he had heard some voice 
predicting woe. 

But like an heir who does not long bewail a deceased 
parent, he tore off from this beautiful tree the tall broad 
green leaves which are its poetic adornment, and used them 
to mend the mat on which he was to sleep. 

Fatigued by the heat and his work, he fell asleep under 
the red curtains of his wet cave. 

In the middle of the night his sleep was troubled by an 



A PASSION IN THE DESERT 457 

extraordinary noise; he sat up, and the deep silence around 
allowed him to distinguish the alternative accents of a respi- 
ration whose savage energy could not belong to a human 
creature. 

A profound terror, increased still further by the dark- 
ness, the silence, and his waking images, froze his heart 
within him. He almost felt his hair stand on end, when by 
straining his eyes to their utmost he perceived through the 
shadow two faint yellow lights. At first he attributed these 
lights to the reflection of his own pupils, but soon the vivid 
brilliance of the night aided him gradually to distinguish 
the objects around him in the cave, and he beheld a huge 
animal lying but two steps from him. Was it a lion, a 
tiger, or a crocodile ? 

The Provencal was not educated enough to know under 
what species his enemy ought to be classed; but his fright 
was all the greater, as his ignorance led him to imagine all 
terrors at once; he endured a cruel torture, noting every 
variation of the breathing close to him without during to 
make the slightest movement. An odor, pungent like that 
of a fox, but more penetrating, profounder — so to speak — 
filled the cave, and when the Provencal became sensible of 
this his terror reached its height, for lie could no longer 
doubt the proximity of a terrible companion, whoso royal 
dwelling served him for a shelter. 

Presently the reflection of the moon descending on the 
horizon, lighted up the den, rendering gradually risible and 
resplendent the spotted skin of a panther. 

This lion of Egypt slept, curled up like a big dog, tin- 
peaceful possessor of a sumptuous niche at the gale of a 
hotel; its eyes opened for a moment and closed again; its 

face was turned toward the man. A thousand confused 
(T)— Vol 16 



458 BALZAC'S WORKS 

thoughts passed through the Frenchman's mind; first he 
thought of killing it with a bullet from his gun, but he saw 
there was not enough distance between them for him to take 
proper aim — the shot would miss the mark. And if it were 
to wake! — the thought made his limbs rigid. He listened 
to his own heart beating in the midst of the silence, and 
cursed the too violent pulsations which the flow of blood 
brought on, fearing to disturb that sleep which allowed him 
time to think of some means of escape. 

Twice he placed his hand on his cimeter, intending to 
cut off the head of his enemy; but the difficulty of cutting 
the stiff short hair compelled him to abandon this daring 
project. To miss would be to die for certain, he thought; 
he preferred the chances of fair fight, and made up his mind 
to wait till morning ; the morning did not leave him long- 
to wait. 

He could now examine the panther at ease; its muzzle 
was smeared with blood. 

"She's had a good dinner," he thought, without troub- 
ling himself as to whether her feast might have been on 
human flesh. "She won't be hungry when she gets up." 

It was a female. The fur on her belly and flanks was 
glistening white; many small marks like velvet formed 
beautiful bracelets round her feet; her sinuous tail was also 
white, ending with black rings; the overpart of her dress, 
yellow like unburnished gold, very lissome and soft, had the 
characteristic blotches in the form of rosettes which distin- 
guish the panther from every other feline species. 

This tranquil and formidable hostess snored in an atti- 
tude as graceful as that of a cat lying on a cushion. Her 
blood-stained paws, nervous and well-armed, were stretched 
out before her face, which rested upon them, and from 



A PASSION IN THE DESERT 459 

which radiated her straight slender whiskers, like threads 
of silver. 

If she had been like that in a cage, the Provencal would 
doubtless have admired the grace of the animal, and the 
vigorous contrasts of vivid color which gave her robe an 
imperial splendor; but just then his sight was troubled by 
her sinister appearance. 

The presence of the panther, even asleep, could not fail 
to produce the effect which the magnetic eyes of the serpent 
are said to have on the nightingale. 

For a moment the courage of the soldier began to fail 
before this danger, though no doubt it would have risen at 
the mouth of a cannon charged with shell. Nevertheless, 
a bold thought brought daylight to his soul and sealed up 
the source of the cold sweat which sprang forth on his brow. 
Like men driven to bay, who defy death and offer their 
body to the smiter, so he, seeing in this merely a tragic 
episode, resolved to play his part with honor to the last. 

"The day before yesterday the Arabs would have killed 
me perhaps," he said; so considering himself as good as 
dead already, he waited bravely, with excited curiosity, his 
enemy's awakening. 

When the sun appeared, the panther suddenly opened 
her eyes; then she put out her paws with energy, as it to 
stretch them and -get rid of cramp. At last she yawned, 
showing the formidable apparatus of her teeth and pointed 
tongue, rough as a file. 

She licked off the blood which stained her paws and 
muzzle, and scratched her head with reiterated gestures full 
of prettiness. 

"All right, make a little toilet," the Frenchman said to 
himself, beginning to recover his gayety with his coura 



460 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"we'll say good-morning to each other presently," and he 
seized the small short dagger which he had taken from the 
Mangrabins. At this moment the panther turned her head 
toward the man and looked at him fixedly without moving. 

The rigidity of her metallic eyes and their insupportable 
lustre made him shudder, especially when the animal walked 
toward him. But he looked at her caressingly, staring into 
her eyes in order to magnetize her, and let her come quite 
close to him; then with a movement both gentle and affec- 
tionate, as though he were caressing the most beautiful ot 
women, he passed his hand over her whole body, from the 
head to the tail, scratching the flexible vertebrae which 
divided the -panther's yellow back. The animal waved her 
tail, and her eyes grew gentle; and when for the third time 
the Frenchman accomplished this interested flattery, she 
gave forth one of those purrings by which our cats express 
their pleasure; but' this murmur issued from a throat so 
powerful and so deep that it resounded through the cave 
like the last vibrations oi an organ in a church. The man, 
understanding the importance of his caresses, redoubled 
them. 

When he felt sure of having extinguished the ferocity of 
his capricious companion, whose hunger had so fortunately 
been satisfied the day before, he got up to go out of the 
cave; the panther let him go out, but when he had reached 
the summit of the hill she sprang with the lightness of a 
sparrow hopping from twig to twig, and rubbed herself 
against his legs, putting up her back after the manner of 
all the race of cats. Then regarding her guest with eyes 
whose glare had softened a little, she gave vent to that 
wild cry which naturalists compare to the grating of a saw. 

"She is exacting," said the Frenchman, smiling. 



A PASSION IN THE DESERT 461 

He was bold enough to play with her ears; he scratched 
her head as hard as he could. When he saw he was suc- 
cessful he tickled her skull with the point of his dagger, 
watching for the moment to kill her, but the hardness of 
her bones made him tremble for his success. 

The sultana «^f the desert showed herself gracious to her 
slave; she lifted her head, stretched out her neck, and mani- 
fested her delight by the tranquillity of her attitude. It 
suddenly occurred to the soldier that to kill this savage 
princess with one blow he must poniard her in the throat. 

He raised the blade, when the panther, satisfied, no 
doubt, laid herself gracefully at his feet, and cast up at 
him glances in which, in spite of their natural fierceness, 
was mingled confusedly a kind of good-will. The poor 
Provencal ate his dates, leaning against one of the palm 
trees, and casting his eyes alternately on the desert in quest 
of some liberator and on his terrible companion to watch her 
uncertain clemency. 

The panther looked at the place where the date st<> 
fell, and every time that he threw one down, her eves 
expressed an incredible mistrust. 

She examined the man with an almost commercial pru- 
dence. However, this examination was favorable to him, 
for when he had finished his meagre meal she licked his 
boots with her powerful rough tongue, brushing off with 
marvellous skill the dust gathered in the creases. 

"Ah, but when she's really hungry I" thought the 
Frenchman. 

In spite of the shudder this thought caused him, the 
soldier began to measure curiously the proportions of the 
panther, certainly one of the most splendid specimens of its 
race. She was three feet high and four feet long without 



462 BALZAC'S WORKS 

counting her tail; this powerful weapon, rounded like a 
cudgel, was nearly three feet long. The head, large as that 
of a lioness, was distinguished by a rare expression of re- 
finement. The cold cruelty of a tiger was dominant, it was 
true, but there was also a vague resemblance to the face 
of a sensual woman. 

Indeed, the face of this solitary queen had something of 
the gayety of a drunken Nero: she had satiated herself with 
blood, and she wanted to play. 

The soldier tried if he might walk up and down, and the 
panther left him free, contenting herself with following him 
with her eyes, less like a faithful dog than a big Angora cat, 
observing everything, and every movement of her master. 

When he looked round, he saw, by the spring, the re- 
mains of his horse; the panther had dragged the carcass all 
that way; about two-thirds of it had been devoured already. 
The sight reassured him. 

It was easy to explain the panther's absence, and the 
respect she had had for him while he slept. The first piece 
of good luck emboldened him to tempt the future, and he 
conceived the wild hope of continuing on good terms with 
the panther during the entire day, neglecting no means of 
taming her and remaining in her good graces. 

He returned to her, and had the unspeakable joy of see- 
ing her wag her tail with an almost imperceptible movement 
at his approach. He sat down then, without fear, by her 
side, and they began to play together; he took her paws 
and muzzle, pulled her ears, rolled her over on her back, 
stroked her warm, delicate flanks. She let him do what- 
ever he liked, and when he began to stroke the hair on her 
feet she drew her claws in carefully. 

The man, keeping the dagger in one hand, thought to 



A PASSION IN THE DESERT 463 

plunge it into the belly of the too confiding panther, but 
he was afraid that he would be immediately strangled in her 
last convulsive struggle; besides, he felt in his heart a sort 
of remorse which bid him respect a creature that had done 
him no harm. He seemed to have found a friend in a 
boundless desert; half unconsciously he thought of his first 
sweetheart, whom he had nicknamed "Mignonne" by way 
of contrast, because she was so atrociously jealous, that all 
the time of their love he was in fear of the knife with which 
she had always threatened him. 

This memory of his early days suggested to him the idea 
of making the young panther answer to this name, now that 
he began to admire with less terror her swiftness, supple- 
ness, and softness. Toward the end of the day he had 
familiarized himself with his perilous position; he now 
almost liked the painfulness of it. At last his companion 
had got into the habit of looking up at him whenever 
he cried in a falsetto voice, "Mignonne." 

At the setting of the sun Mignonne gave, several times 
running, a profound melancholy cry. 

"She's been well brought up," said the light-hearted 
soldier; "she says her prayers." But this mental joke only 
occurred to him when he noticed what a pacific attitude his 
companion remained in. "Come, ma petite blonde, I'll let 
you go to bed first," he said to her, counting on the 
activity of his own legs to run away as quickly as pos- 
sible, directly she was asleep, and seek another shelter 
for the night. 

The soldier awaited with impatience the hour of his 
flight, and when it had arrived he walked vigorously in the 
direction of the Nile; but hardly had he made a quarter of 
a league in the sand when he heard the panther bounding 



464 BALZAC'S WORKS 

after him, crying with that sawlike cry, more dreadful even 
than the sound of her leaping. 

"Ah!" he said, "then she's taken a fancy to me; she 
has never met any one before, and it is really quite flatter- 
ing to have her first love." 

That instant the man fell into one of those movable 
quicksands so terrible to travellers and from which it is 
impossible to save one's self. Feeling himself caught, he 
gave a shriek of alarm ; the panther seized him with her 
teeth by the collar, and, springing vigorously backward, 
drew him, as if by magic, out of the whirling sand. 

"Ah, Mignonne!" cried the soldier, caressing her enthu- 
siastically; "we're bound together for life and death — but 
no jokes, mind!" and he retraced his steps. 

From that time the desert seemed inhabited. It con- 
tained a being to whom the man could talk, and whose 
ferocity was rendered gentle by him, though he could not 
explain to himself the reason for their strange friendship. 
Great as was the soldier's desire to stay up on guard, he 
slept. 

On awakening he could not find Mignonne; he mounted 
the hill, and in the distance saw her springing toward him 
after the habit of these animals, who cannot run on account 
of the extreme flexibility of the vertebral column. Mig- 
nonne arrived, her jaws covered with blood; she received 
the wonted caress of her companion, showing with much 
purring how happy it made her. Her eyes, full of languor, 
turned still more gently than the day before toward the 
Provencal, who talked to her as one would to a tame 
animal. 

"Ah! mademoiselle, you are a nice girl, aren't you? 
Just look at that! so we like to be made much of, don't 



A PASSION IN THE DESERT 465 

we? Aren't you ashamed of yourself? So you have been 
eating some Arab or other, have you ? That doesn't matter. 
They're animals just the same as you are; but don't you 
take to eating Frenchmen, or I shan't like you any longer.'" 

She played like a dog with its master, letting herself be 
rolled over, knocked about, and stroked, alternately; some- 
times she herself would provoke the soldier, putting up her 
paw with a soliciting gesture. 

Some days passed in this manner. This companionship 
permitted the Provencal to appreciate the sublime beautv of 
the desert; now that he had a living thing to think about, 
alternations of fear and quiet, and plenty to eat, his mind 
became filled with contrasts, and his life began to be 
diversified. 

Solitude revealed to him all her secrets, and enveloped 
him in her delights. He discovered in the rising and setting 
of the sun sights unknown to the world. He knew what it 
was to tremble when he heard over his head the hiss of a 
bird's wings, so rarely did they pass, or when he saw the 
clouds, changing and many-colored travellers, melt into 
one another. He studied in the night time the effects of 
the moon upon the ocean of sand, where the simoom made 
waves swift of movement and rapid in their change. He 
lived the life of the Eastern day, marvelling at its wonder- 
ful pomp; then, after having revelled in the sight of a hurri- 
cane over the plain where the whirling sands made red, dry 
mists and death-bearing clouds, he would welcome the night 
with joy, for then fell the healthful freshness of the stars, 
and he listened to imaginary music in the skies. Then 
solitude taught him to unroll the treasures of dreams, lb- 
passed whole hours in remembering mere nothings, and 
comparing his present life with his past. 



466 BALZAC'S WORKS 

At last he grew passionately fond of the tigress; for 
some sort of affection was a necessity. 

Whether it was that his will powerfully projected had 
modified the character of his companion, or whether, be- 
cause she found abundant food in her predatory excursions 
in the deserts, she respected the man's life, he began to fear 
for it no longer, seeing her so well tamed. 

He devoted the greater part of his time to sleep, but he 
was obliged to watch like a spider in its web that the mo- 
ment of his deliverance might not escape him, if any one 
should pass the line marked by the horizon. He had sacri- 
ficed his shirt to make a flag with, which he hung at the top 
of a palm tree, whose foliage he had torn off. Taught by 
necessity, he found the means of keeping it spread out, by 
fastening it with little sticks; for the wind might not be 
blowing at the moment when the passing traveller was 
looking through the desert. 

It was during the long hours, when he had abandoned 
hope, that he amused himself with the panther. He had 
come to learn the different inflections of her voice, the ex- 
pressions of her eyes; he had studied the capricious patterns 
of all the rosettes which marked the gold of her robe. Mig- 
nonne was not even angry when he took hold of the tuft at 
the end of her tail to count the rings, those graceful orna- 
ments which glittered in the sun like jewelry. It gave him 
pleasure to contemplate the supple, fine outlines of her 
form, the graceful pose of her head. But it was especially 
when she was playing that he felt most pleasure in looking 
at her; the agility and youthful lightness of her movements 
were a continual surprise to him; he wondered at the supple 
way which she jumped and climbed, washed herself and 
arranged her fur, crouched down and prepared to spring. 



A PASSION IN THE DESERT 467 

However rapid her spring might be, however slippery the 
stone she was on, she would always stop short at the word 
"Mignonne." 

One day, in a bright mid -day sun, an enormous bird 
coursed through the air. The man left his panther to look 
at this new guest; but after waiting a moment the deserted 
sultana growled deeply. 

"My goodness! I do believe she's jealous," he cried, 
seeing her eyes become hard again; "the soul of Yirginie 
lias passed into her body, that's certain." 

The eagle disappeared into the air, while the soldier 
admired the curved contour of the panther. 

But there was such youth and grace in her form! sin- 
was beautiful as a woman! the blond fur of her robe min- 
gled well with the delicate tints of faint white which marked 
her flanks. The profuse light cast down by the sun made 
this living gold, these russet markings, to burn in a way to 
give them an indefinable attraction. 

The man and the panther looked at one another with a 
look full of meaning; the coquette quivered when she frit 
her friend stroke her head; her eyes flashed like lightni 
— then she shut them tightly. 

"She has a soul," he said, looking at the stillness of 
this queen of the sands, golden like them, white like 
them, solitary and burning like them. 

Ah ! how did it all end ? 

Alas; as all great passions do end — in a misunderstand- 
ing. From some reason one suspects the other of treason; 
they don't come to an explanation through pride, and quar- 
rel and part from sheer obstinacy. Yet sometimes at the 
best moments a, single word or a look are enough. 



468 BALZAC'S WORKS 

"Well," the old fellow continued, "with her sharp teeth 
she one day caught hold of my leg— gently, I dare say ; but 
I, thinking she would devour me, plunged my dagger into 
her throat. She rolled over, giving a cry that froze my 
heart; and I saw her dying, still looking at me without 
anger. I would have given all the world — my cross even, 
which I had not got then — to have brought her to life again. 
It was as though I had murdered a real person; and the sol- 
diers who had seen my flag, and were come to my assistance, 
found me in tears. 

"Well, sir," he said, after a moment of silence, "since 
then I have been in war in Germany, in Spain, in Eussia, 
in France; I've certainly carried my carcass about a good 
deal, but never have 1 seen anything like the desert. Ah! 
yes, it is very beautiful!" 

"What did you feel there ?" I asked him. 

"Oh! that can't be described, young man! Besides, I 
am not always regretting my palm trees and my panther. 
I should have to be very melancholy for that. In the 
desert, you see, there is everything, and nothing." 

"Yes, but explain — " 

"Well," he said, with an impatient gesture, "it is God 
without mankind." 



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UC SOUTHERN REGION 



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